Social media users in South Carolina are saying they heard and felt the earth shake in the Charleston area and the state’s Lowcountry region. Some experts say it was likely caused by a sonic boom.
The U.S. Geological Survey says that there was no detectable earthquake in the area and that the cause of the disturbance was unknown.
We see no detectable EQ in Charleston at the time of reported shaking. The origin of the disturbance is unknown possibly a sonic boom
— USGS (@USGS) January 26, 2016
A Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort spokesperson told WYFF-4 TV that planes were in the air on Tuesday afternoon during the time of the shaking, suggesting it might have been a sonic boom.
The planes were conducting exercises between 15 and 20 miles off the coast of South Carolina. However, officials have not confirmed if the planes caused a sonic boom.
“Reports of a loud noise along with houses shaking is indicative of a sonic boom generated by an aircraft of some kind,” said Dr. Erin Beutel, an associate geology professor at the College of Charleston, reported ABC News 4.
“Sonic booms are pressure waves generated as the aircraft exceeds the speed of sound, they are perceived by the people on the ground differently under different atmospheric conditions.
— Charleston Weather (@chswx) January 26, 2016
— Sam Tyson (@SamInteractive) January 26, 2016
“It can also take between 2 to 60 seconds after the plane passes through for the boom to be heard, and over the ocean, the pressure wave can travel further and be heard by more people than on land,” said Dr. Beutel.
Reports say people in Charleston, Berkeley, and Williamsburg counties in South Carolina felt the shaking.
Steve Jaume, an expert with the South Carolina Earthquake Preparedness Program, told WYFF that it’s likely the shaking was caused by a sonic boom.
Meteorologists also supported the sonic boom theory, saying weather radar had picked up chaff just after the boom was heard and felt.