Did rare "frost quake" occur Sunday night in Northeast Missouri?
Like millions across the nation Sunday night, my family watched Seattle drub Denver in the Super Bowl. Unlike millions, however, came an unexplainable sound that came shortly after the game ended around 9:45 p.m.
My wife and I were in the front room of our home when we experienced the sensation of something large striking our house. Our daughter, who was in another part of the house, felt the same thing, only she was convinced it had hit the side of the house in which she was located.
I immediately sprang from my chair and went outside to determine what might have struck my residence, and possibly catch any perpetrators. However, upon going outside I did not find a single soul. An inspection of my property did not reveal any damage or anything that might have caused the nerve-jarring noise.
As it turned out, I was not the only person to hear the sound. Mike Hall, director of Marion County 911, reports that agency received over a dozen calls from Marion and Ralls counties Sunday night from people who either heard a loud boom or felt what they believed was something striking their residence. Lt. John Zerbonia of the Hannibal Police Department also reported “a few” calls were fielded by that agency following the noise.
Social media was also abuzz after the incident.
A former resident of Hannibal contacted her family via Facebook.
“Did you guys hear this? Other of my Hannibal friends on fb are talking about a loud bang or boom,” wrote one woman.
A person who lives in a rural area near Mexico, Mo., reported on Facebook that he and his father “spent the last half hour sweeping our house for intruders” following the noise.
Social media also provided a possible explanation for the noise.
One person posted a link to a Discover Magazine blog by Breanna Draxler. She explained that frigid temperatures can trigger little-known underground explosions called “frost quakes.”
Frost quakes, or cryoseisms, occur in the winter, when a warm spell allows rain or melting snow to seep into cracks and crannies in the ground. When a cold front suddenly hits that water quickly freezes.
As it freezes, the water expands and outgrows its small underground space, cracking the frozen soil or bedrock around it to make room. The resulting boom can be frighteningly loud and even shake the ground, but the quakes are generally so localized that they rarely cause any noticeable damage.
Draxler adds that frost quakes usually happen at night when temperatures bottom out.
On New Year’s Eve, residents of Vermont’s Champlain Valley heard what sounded like explosions outside their homes beginning around 7 p.m. One extremely alarmed woman described the intense blasts as sounding “like somebody had pushed their refrigerator over onto its side; it was a violent crash and the whole house shook.”
According to an article by Mark Leberfinger, AccuWeather.com, during the month of January frost quakes were reported in Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio and Wisconsin during recent cold waves.