British Columbia

The mystery bang that shook northeast B.C. was probably a fireball, astronomer says

Several residents of the Fort St. John and Charlie Lake regions of northeastern B.C. heard a loud bang and experienced shaking Wednesday night in an event an astronomer says is consistent with a meteor shooting through the area.

An earthquake, oil and gas activity and Site C have all been eliminated as sources of the noise and shaking

A meteor streaks across the sky during the Perseid meteor shower at a windmill farm near Bogdanci, south of Skopje, in the early morning August 13, 2014. Astronomer Ken Tapping said it's rare to have advance warnings of meteors entering specific regions. (Ognen Teofilovski/Reuters)

The source of a loud bang followed by shaking in northeast B.C., that caused confusion for residents, was likely a meteor shooting through the sky, says a B.C. astronomer.

"It's entirely consistent with it being a large fireball," said Ken Tapping, a National Research Council of Canada astronomer.

Residents who experienced the event said it sounded like the object was just outside their homes.

"It was like when a shotgun goes off and you're right beside it," said Donna Taylor of Charlie Lake, a small community northwest of Fort St. John, who was in her home when she heard the noise around 11 pm Wednesday night.

I thought a truck blew up or something.- Jessica Krup

"I thought somebody threw something against my place or ran into it, because all the windows shook."

Jessica Krupp was in bed when the noise woke her up.

"It sounded like a fuse blew or something electrical kind of snapped or crackled," she said. "Like an explosion almost."

"I thought a truck blew up or something."

Earthquake, industry not the source

Cassandra Ross of Shady Acres Mobile Homes said her entire unit shook for what she estimates was two seconds or less.

"The whole floor and everything, literally, a quick shake," she said. 

Shaking was felt in Charlie Lake and a loud noise was heard by some residents of Fort St. John. Further south, in Dawson Creek, one man reports seeing a large shooting star in the area. (Google Maps)

"So we went outside... pretty much everybody was out on the street at the same time going, 'so you heard that, too. It wasn't just me?'" 

Natural Resources Canada seismologist Camille Brillon said her department had received several calls asking if it was an earthquake, but no seismic activity had been recorded.

"There's no event of any type at that time on our stations in that area," she said.

The B.C. Oil and Gas Commission, which oversees drilling activities in the region, said it couldn't find anything in its records that could be the source, and B.C. Hydro reported no activity from any of its contractors.

'Sonic boom'

Brad Pippolo was in his home between Charlie Lake and Fort St. John when he heard the noise.

"I was on the phone with my girlfriend ... I heard the boom or bang. It sounded like an explosion to me, and a few, maybe two or three seconds later, she heard it in Fort St. John."

Pippolo said the noise reminded him of his time in the military.

"It was definitely some kind of an explosion. Now, it's been years since I've heard a sonic boom from an airplane, but it could have been something like that, I honestly do not know."

A spokesperson for the Canadian Armed Forces also said they were not participating in any activities that could be the cause.

In May 2016, the American Meteor Society received more than 330 reports of sightings of a fireball that streaked over Ontario, Quebec and several northeastern U.S. cities. ( Meteor Society)

Vadim Stolyarov of Dawson Creek, southeast of where the noise was heard, said he saw what looked like a shooting star in the direction of Fort St. John earlier in the night.

"I looked up and saw a pretty bright light coming down from the sky and I thought to myself 'Hmm, that's a pretty big shooting star,' and made a wish," he said.

"A couple hours later, Fort St. John social media blew up with noises and explosions and I thought, 'Oh, that's probably what it was.'"

Tapping said Stolyarov's assessment is likely correct.

"It wouldn't have to be very big," he said. "Maybe a large soccer ball."

"It's moving much, much faster than sound ... and forms these great big shock waves that form the sonic boom when you hear them, and then finally when it goes unstable and explodes, and you get another big bang.

"You'll be very lucky to spot them."

With files from Wil Fundal.

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