Mysterious Noises Traced to Rare 'Frost Quakes'

2 years 11 months 1 week ago February 05, 2014 Feb 5, 2014 Wednesday, February 05 2014 Wednesday, February 05, 2014 8:35:12 PM CST in News
By: The Associated Press

ST. LOUIS (AP) -- Chuck Herron heard the loud thud, then another and another. It sounded like someone was dropping big snowballs on the roof of his home.

The house is more than 100 years old and creaks, Herron said, but he had "never heard anything like that before."

As his neighbors in tiny Paris, Mo., huddled around televisions Sunday for the Super Bowl, many were startled by similar strange noises. Some even saw flashes of light and called 911.

Scientists say the community experienced a rare natural phenomenon known as a "frost quake," which happens when moisture in the ground suddenly freezes and expands. If conditions are just right, the soil or bedrock breaks like a brittle frozen pipe, generating mysterious noises that range from an earthquake-like rumble to sharp cracking sounds sometimes mistaken for falling trees.

This winter has been ripe for frost quakes, known technically as cryoseism. Temperatures have been frigid, but occasional warm-ups have allowed for thawing. And the temperature swings have sometimes been abrupt.

That was the case last weekend in Missouri, where temperatures in the 40s on Saturday gave way to single-digit readings by Sunday night.

In Mark Twain's hometown of Hannibal, Mo., 100 miles north of St. Louis, police and emergency dispatches received several calls within about two hours. Facebook feeds were filled with worries.

Some people compared the noise to a sonic boom that rattles windows, said Michael Hall, executive director of the 911 center that covers the Hannibal area. Others described it as sounding like "somebody banging on their house."

Missouri isn't alone. Frost quakes were reported last month in Canada and in several other states - Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, Wisconsin.

In DeKalb, Ill., Lisa Kammes and her family were getting ready for bed earlier this winter when the loud popping noises began.

"The louder ones sounded like somebody was throwing snowballs at the house," Kammes said.

Neighbors heard noises too, and several contacted police.

"It wasn't the regular noise you hear when your house is creaking, blowing in the wind or ice is breaking," Kammes said.

The light flashes reported by some people are believed to come from electrical changes that occur when the freezing compresses rocks.

Robert Herrmann of the Saint Louis University Earthquake Center said frost quakes are far different from real earthquakes. Tremors typically occur a mile or two underground. Frost quakes are near the surface and do not show up on seismographs.

"People nearby will probably notice them a lot because they are shallow, but because they do not penetrate deep within the earth, the magnitude will not be large," Herrmann said. "But the process is the same. There is something that is causing rock to move, and as the rock moves, it generates sound waves and the ground motion."

AccuWeather meteorologist Alex Sosnowski said frost quakes are most common in the northern Plains.

"It has to get suddenly colder," Sosnowski said. "If you have a mild winter, you're probably not going to have a lot of this going on."

Experts say damage is rare but homeowners who experience a frost quake should check for foundation cracks and watch for damage to water and natural gas lines.

Damage is not common, but it happens. In Waupun, Wis., a frost quake last month created a 100-foot crack in a driveway. Homeowner Dennis Olssen told authorities the boom was so loud he thought it was an explosive until he learned that neighbors experienced the same thing.

Kammes said the noise on that otherwise quiet night was so alarming that her husband went outside to make sure no one had damaged the home.

"When we found out what it was," she said, "it was actually a relief."

 

More News

Grid
List
COLUMBIA - The U.S. Department of Agriculture released a new set of regulations on Wednesday that clarifies standards for living... More >>
7 hours ago January 19, 2017 Jan 19, 2017 Thursday, January 19 2017 Thursday, January 19, 2017 6:49:00 PM CST in News
COLUMBIA - The Columbia/Boone County Health and Human Services Department tracked a decrease in mumps cases reports when MU students... More >>
7 hours ago January 19, 2017 Jan 19, 2017 Thursday, January 19 2017 Thursday, January 19, 2017 6:42:00 PM CST in News
SPRINGFIELD (AP) — A southwest Missouri woman was sentenced to two years in prison without parole for selling more than... More >>
7 hours ago January 19, 2017 Jan 19, 2017 Thursday, January 19 2017 Thursday, January 19, 2017 6:39:07 PM CST in News
KANSAS CITY ( AP) — Missouri Democrats are asking Gov. Eric Greitens to support their efforts to force the new... More >>
7 hours ago January 19, 2017 Jan 19, 2017 Thursday, January 19 2017 Thursday, January 19, 2017 6:23:56 PM CST in News
ST. LOUIS (AP) — St. Louis police say a man was fatally shot just west of Hickey Park. According... More >>
7 hours ago January 19, 2017 Jan 19, 2017 Thursday, January 19 2017 Thursday, January 19, 2017 6:11:00 PM CST in News
BOONE COUNTY - The Missouri Highway Patrol has identified the person at the center of a death investigation north of... More >>
8 hours ago January 19, 2017 Jan 19, 2017 Thursday, January 19 2017 Thursday, January 19, 2017 5:15:35 PM CST in Top Stories
ST. LOUIS (AP) — St. Louis police say a 79-year-old man fatally shot the assistant manager of an apartment for... More >>
9 hours ago January 19, 2017 Jan 19, 2017 Thursday, January 19 2017 Thursday, January 19, 2017 4:53:42 PM CST in News
COLUMBIA - The Columbia Police Department responded to a shots fired incident near Quail Drive Thursday afternoon. According to... More >>
9 hours ago January 19, 2017 Jan 19, 2017 Thursday, January 19 2017 Thursday, January 19, 2017 4:25:00 PM CST in News
KANSAS CITY (AP) — A federal appeals court has revived a lawsuit challenging Missouri regulations limiting how alcohol producers and... More >>
10 hours ago January 19, 2017 Jan 19, 2017 Thursday, January 19 2017 Thursday, January 19, 2017 3:50:31 PM CST in News
JEFFERSON CITY (AP) — A Missouri senator says the state shouldn't be investing in Russia, and she has filed a... More >>
10 hours ago January 19, 2017 Jan 19, 2017 Thursday, January 19 2017 Thursday, January 19, 2017 3:44:00 PM CST in News
ST. LOUIS (AP) — The man who was the face of Ferguson, Missouri, in the turmoil that followed the 2014... More >>
11 hours ago January 19, 2017 Jan 19, 2017 Thursday, January 19 2017 Thursday, January 19, 2017 2:47:32 PM CST in News
COLUMBIA - New research from the University of Missouri School of Social work called for more attention to advanced directives,... More >>
11 hours ago January 19, 2017 Jan 19, 2017 Thursday, January 19 2017 Thursday, January 19, 2017 2:40:00 PM CST in News
JEFFERSON CITY (AP) — A bill prohibiting mandatory union fees in workplaces is moving to the Missouri Senate after winning... More >>
11 hours ago January 19, 2017 Jan 19, 2017 Thursday, January 19 2017 Thursday, January 19, 2017 2:36:00 PM CST in News
JEFFERSON CITY (AP) — Airport, trucking and business officials all are urging Missouri lawmakers to change state driver's license laws... More >>
11 hours ago January 19, 2017 Jan 19, 2017 Thursday, January 19 2017 Thursday, January 19, 2017 2:24:06 PM CST in News
KANSAS CITY (AP) — Kansas City-area investigators are searching for a missing college student from Wichita who hasn't been seen... More >>
11 hours ago January 19, 2017 Jan 19, 2017 Thursday, January 19 2017 Thursday, January 19, 2017 2:15:54 PM CST in News
KANSAS CITY (AP) — The city of Ferguson, Missouri, is appealing a federal jury's $3 million award to the family... More >>
11 hours ago January 19, 2017 Jan 19, 2017 Thursday, January 19 2017 Thursday, January 19, 2017 2:08:00 PM CST in News
MOUNT VERNON (AP) — A southwest Missouri fa rmer who was charged in a fork loader assault has pleaded guilty... More >>
12 hours ago January 19, 2017 Jan 19, 2017 Thursday, January 19 2017 Thursday, January 19, 2017 2:00:50 PM CST in News
COLUMBIA - A new report released by the Missouri Women's Foundation Thursday shows a need for policy changes to improve... More >>
13 hours ago January 19, 2017 Jan 19, 2017 Thursday, January 19 2017 Thursday, January 19, 2017 12:28:00 PM CST in News
Columbia, MO
Broken Clouds 46°
2am 44°
3am 44°
4am 44°
5am 44°

Select a station to view its upcoming schedule:

Coming Up Next

1:37a
Paid Program
2:07a
Today
3:00a
Mad Money
1:30a
Seinfeld
2:00a
Paid Program
2:30a
Paid Program

Tonight's Schedule

7:00p
Grimm
8:00p
Emerald City
9:00p
Dateline NBC
7:00p
The Vampire Diaries
8:00p
Crazy Ex-Girlfriend
9:00p
KOMU 8 News @ Nine on The CW
9:30p
Seinfeld