Wisconsin mystery: What's going boom in the night?
Residents of Clintonville, Wisconsin complain of sleepless nights caused by mysterious booms, sounding like thunder. Town officials can't find the source.
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"This is an issue," she said, demanding answers from officials at the meeting. "There is something else going on."Skip to next paragraph
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Kuss urged Binger to write down when the cracks occurred and promised to send officials to the woman's home to look over the damage.
Debby Ernst has not heard the sound or felt the tremors but said she is still considering going elsewhere until the mystery is solved.
"It worries me. I'm scared," Ernst, a gas station cashier, said in a phone interview. "Who's to say it ain't going to get worse?"
However, a local scientist said nothing has surfaced that suggests townspeople should be afraid.
Steve Dutch, a geologist at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay, said the ground beneath them is solid, and that there are no known earthquake fault lines in the area.
Dutch said he heard some people worrying that a sinkhole might open up and swallow homes. That can happen in areas where the ground is rich with limestone and other rocks that can be dissolved by water, he said. But the rock below Clintonville is mainly solid granite that's largely impermeable.
However, he speculated that water and granite could hold the key to the mystery. Granite has small cracks that water can fill, but if the underground water table falls especially low, water can seep out, leaving gaps that cause the rocks to settle and generate loud noises.
"Maybe the very dry winter caused more water to be removed from the water table, either through pumping or natural flow," he said.
A seismic station near Clintonville, a town of about 4,600 people about 40 miles west of Green Bay, has recorded unusual ground shaking since Sunday night. Scientists say such activity can be caused by mining and heavy truck traffic, but since there are no mines or major construction in the area, the Wisconsin Geological and Natural History Survey will take a closer look at the data.
Some residents are having fun with the mystery, which has drawn media attention from around the nation.
Jordan Pfeiler said people stayed up late on the first two nights to walk around listening for booms. They came up with outlandish theories to explain the noise — for example, that the White House was building an underground bunker in the area or that mole men had found a home there.
"And the aliens, of course, there's always the aliens," she said.
Van Beek understands the temptation to crack jokes, but it's no laughing matter to her.
"Everything people think it is has been ruled out. They just don't have answers," she said. "At this point all I want is for it to stop."
Dinesh Ramde reported from Milwaukee. He can be reached at dramde(at)ap.org.