Mysterious Noises Traced to Rare 'Frost Quakes'

3 years 2 months 2 weeks 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- In the latest Association of American Universities (AAU) report released Wednesday, the University of Missouri was highlighted for its... More >>
1 hour ago April 26, 2017 Apr 26, 2017 Wednesday, April 26 2017 Wednesday, April 26, 2017 5:36:00 PM CDT in News
JEFFERSON CITY (AP) — Missouri representatives have approved that the state pay an extra $241 million in unexpected expenses for... More >>
1 hour ago April 26, 2017 Apr 26, 2017 Wednesday, April 26 2017 Wednesday, April 26, 2017 5:33:47 PM CDT in News
SPRINGFIELD (AP) — Family members of a man whose death was caused by Arkansas death row inmate Kenneth Williams say... More >>
1 hour ago April 26, 2017 Apr 26, 2017 Wednesday, April 26 2017 Wednesday, April 26, 2017 5:26:16 PM CDT in News
ST. LOUIS (AP) — St. Louis' city minimum wage could rise to $10 an hour starting next week now that... More >>
2 hours ago April 26, 2017 Apr 26, 2017 Wednesday, April 26 2017 Wednesday, April 26, 2017 4:16:16 PM CDT in News
JEFFERSON CITY - Missouri Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft teamed up with Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley and local legislators... More >>
2 hours ago April 26, 2017 Apr 26, 2017 Wednesday, April 26 2017 Wednesday, April 26, 2017 4:12:00 PM CDT in News
JEFFERSON CITY – Missouri motorcycle crashes have resulted in 475 deaths since 2012, with 122 fatalities occurring in last year... More >>
2 hours ago April 26, 2017 Apr 26, 2017 Wednesday, April 26 2017 Wednesday, April 26, 2017 3:41:00 PM CDT in News
COLUMBIA - A controversial bill moving through the Missouri General Assembly could change the handling of workplace discrimination claims in... More >>
3 hours ago April 26, 2017 Apr 26, 2017 Wednesday, April 26 2017 Wednesday, April 26, 2017 3:28:24 PM CDT in News
JEFFERSON CITY (AP) — Missouri lawmakers are pushing legislation that would make it harder for judges to require domestic violence... More >>
3 hours ago April 26, 2017 Apr 26, 2017 Wednesday, April 26 2017 Wednesday, April 26, 2017 2:54:16 PM CDT in News
JEFFERSON CITY - A coalition of organizations rallied at the state capitol Wednesday in support of a "Moral Missouri." ... More >>
3 hours ago April 26, 2017 Apr 26, 2017 Wednesday, April 26 2017 Wednesday, April 26, 2017 2:48:00 PM CDT in News
ST. LOUIS (AP) — Fire officials in St. Louis are investigating after a vacant home exploded, sending glass, wood and... More >>
5 hours ago April 26, 2017 Apr 26, 2017 Wednesday, April 26 2017 Wednesday, April 26, 2017 1:20:50 PM CDT in Continuous News
NEOSHO (AP) - Students at a college in southwestern Missouri will see a tuition increase in the coming year in... More >>
5 hours ago April 26, 2017 Apr 26, 2017 Wednesday, April 26 2017 Wednesday, April 26, 2017 12:47:33 PM CDT in News
JEFFERSON CITY — Lincoln University students went to an African-American Genealogy workshop Wednesday morning to learn more about their family... More >>
6 hours ago April 26, 2017 Apr 26, 2017 Wednesday, April 26 2017 Wednesday, April 26, 2017 12:36:00 PM CDT in News
JEFFERSON CITY (AP) — The Missouri Supreme Court has set an execution date for this summer for a man sentenced... More >>
6 hours ago April 26, 2017 Apr 26, 2017 Wednesday, April 26 2017 Wednesday, April 26, 2017 12:28:09 PM CDT in News
PINE LAWN (AP) — Police are looking for two cars in connection with the shooting deaths of three men in... More >>
6 hours ago April 26, 2017 Apr 26, 2017 Wednesday, April 26 2017 Wednesday, April 26, 2017 12:23:39 PM CDT in News
KANSAS CITY (AP) — Two men once detained at the Jackson County jail are separately suing over the lockup's conditions... More >>
6 hours ago April 26, 2017 Apr 26, 2017 Wednesday, April 26 2017 Wednesday, April 26, 2017 11:39:45 AM CDT in News
JEFFERSON CITY - A federal education law that requires schools to provide transportation to homeless students is having an impact... More >>
7 hours ago April 26, 2017 Apr 26, 2017 Wednesday, April 26 2017 Wednesday, April 26, 2017 11:34:00 AM CDT in News
COLUMBIA - Popular mobile app and ridesharing service "Lyft" has joined Uber in Columbia. Lyft added Columbia to its... More >>
7 hours ago April 26, 2017 Apr 26, 2017 Wednesday, April 26 2017 Wednesday, April 26, 2017 11:06:00 AM CDT in News
COLUMBIA - Firefighters responded to a house fire at Ridgecrest Drive early Wednesday morning. Eight Columbia Fire Department units... More >>
7 hours ago April 26, 2017 Apr 26, 2017 Wednesday, April 26 2017 Wednesday, April 26, 2017 10:53:00 AM CDT in News
Columbia, MO
Broken Clouds 48°
7pm 49°
8pm 49°
9pm 48°
10pm 47°

Select a station to view its upcoming schedule:

Coming Up Next

6:30p
Wheel of Fortune
7:00p
Blindspot
8:00p
Law & Order: Special Victims Unit
6:30p
Family Guy
7:00p
Arrow
8:00p
The 100

Tonight's Schedule

7:00p
Blindspot
8:00p
Law & Order: Special Victims Unit
9:00p
Chicago P.D.
7:00p
Arrow
8:00p
The 100
9:00p
KOMU 8 News @ Nine on The CW
9:30p
Seinfeld