Saturday, January 31, 2009

Things that go BANG in the night.

At about 1:30 AM on Friday night, er, Saturday Morning, I was working at my computer when BANG! I was jolted out of my seat by an explosion. It sounded like a building blew up. Scared the crap out of me!

It wasn't the first time I've heard such explosions, but it was by far the loudest and closest.

Now, you're thinking, this has happened before???? Things are just blowing up???? Why isn't this in the newspaper????

To answer these in order: 1. Yes. 2. Apparently not. 3. Because these explosions leave no trace that they ever occurred.

I've been hearing these loud explosions in Seaside for several years now. They are few and far between, about once or twice a year, but they're as loud as artillery fire. They almost always occur late at night, and they seem to be happening all over the city. Sometimes they sound very close, as the one did last night. Other times they sound like they're on the opposite side of town.

After hearing this one I turned on the police scanner, as I usually do at such moments. Seaside Fire was called to investigate in my neighborhood, but found nothing. They attributed it to fireworks. I don't think so. Fireworks are a routine annoyance in Seaside, particularly in the spring and summer, so much so that we've nicknamed our city "Baghdad-by-the-bay."

But what I'm talking about is twenty times louder than any fireworks. Sometimes I'll hear a police officer report hearing the BANG. The last one several months ago was reported by multiple officers and was apparently near the north end of Sand City. Other times, like last night, the police seem oblivious, which seems odd in itself considering that these things can be heard across town.

One might consider that these explosions are electrical transformers blowing up, which make a similar sound. But transformer explosions tend to result in a power outage somewhere, and that isn't happening. So at this point I suspect these BANGS are the product of a prankster. A little internet research indicates that Seaside isnt the only place in the country that experiences these things. Apparently there are at least two ways of generating an alarming sounding explosion without leaving a trace.

One is with a device called a propane cannon, which is used in agricultural fields to scare away birds. The other method involves filling balloons with flammable gas and attaching a fuse instead of a string. The prankster will light the fuse before launching the balloons which then rise to a fair altitude over everyone's heads before going BANG. Either one of these methods would explain why Seaside police and fire can find no trace of any explosion. Unless someone is looking in just the right direction when the device shoots off, which is unlikely in the late night hours, nobody will see it happen.

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