A series of loud booms and mysterious rattling that shook homes and businesses Monday morning in New Hanover and Brunswick counties had residents calling police and on each other for answers. Officials with the U.S. Earthquake Center say one possibility can be ruled out since no seismic activity was reported in the area.
According to New Hanover County 911, multiple reports about the booms and tremors began at about 10:30 a.m. Monday in parts of downtown Wilmington, College Road, 13th Street and in the Monkey Junction area. Dispatchers in Brunswick County also reported receiving multiple calls throughout the county.
According to Brunswick County Sheriff’s Office Spokeswoman Emily Flax, the 911 center received between 10-20 calls in reference to a loud explosion or boom as well as reports of houses shaking and pictures falling off walls.
“Several callers were scared and wanted to speak with someone,” Flax said. “We dispatched officers to callers that wanted to speak with someone and just made note of others.”
Some of the calls in the county were also from people who were curious as to what the disturbances may have been, Flax said. However, no reports have indicated a source.
“Houses shook in various areas throughout the county, mostly in the north end,” Flax said. “Some people felt it harder than others; their description was that it was more intense than some of the others.”
In Brunswick County, there is a military ocean terminal at Sunny Point and Duke Energy’s Brunswick Nuclear Plant, which are located in the area, but there has been no report of any “unusual events,” Flax said.
“All those places are set up that if anything happens, we get notification,” she added.
According to Paul Caruso, a geophysicist with the National Earthquake Information Center, there were no reports Monday morning of any seismic activity in the Cape Fear region.
“Most of the time, people aren’t hearing earthquakes…they feel them,” Caruso said when asked about the events.
A comments through the Leland NC Traffic Report Facebook page about the tremors gained more than 150 replies from people confirming similar experiences on Monday. Some attributed the source to a local and national phenomenon known as “Seneca guns,” which according to the U.S. Geologic Survey is a name for an occurrence of “noises and shakings” that has no explanation.
The name refers to booms that have been heard on the shores of Lake Seneca and Lake Cayuga in New York state, according to the report. The name, which reflects the legend of Seneca Indian ghosts who would fire guns to disturb those who drove them from their land, has been applied to similar booms heard along the coasts of North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia. To learn more about Seneca guns and other earthquake phenomena from U.S. Geologic Survey page, click here.
An inquiry with the U.S. Department of Defense regarding the occurrence was not returned at the time of this story’s publication. Port City Daily will provide any updates as they become available.