PANAMA CITY BEACH, Fla. (WJHG/WECP) - A lot of folks contacted us today after hearing a loud boom and rumbling sound early this afternoon a little after 1pm. Many people thought it might have been an earthquake. A quick check of the USGS (United States Geological Survey) ruled that out. While we do not have a definitive answer what caused the rumble can likely be narrowed down to a few possibilities...
1. A sonic boom from a military jet over the Gulf of Mexico. While no aircraft were flying out of Tyndall... planes could have been flying over the Gulf from either Eglin or MacDill.
2. An explosion from an ordinance over at Eglin on the test range
3. Maybe a sonic boom from a meteor entering the Earth's atmosphere.
Whatever it was the reason why it lasted for a while and why so many people heard/felt it over a large distance was likely because of something called 'atmospheric ducting.' This can occur when we have warm air above the surface with cold air at the surface. This was actually happening in our atmosphere earlier today with the passage of the cold front that brought the rain to the panhandle. When a large sound occurs like an explosion or a sonic boom it would be likely to travel a much greater distance and last longer and be louder than normal.
Anyway, if we can get a definitive reason we will be sure to pass it along, but the likely result we heard of whatever caused it was atmospheric ducting.
We hope that helps!