Boom Town (Transcript) | WAMU 88.5 - American University Radio

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Boom Town

MR. ROB SACHS

13:47:07
We turn from stolen identities to unsolved identities.

MS. REBECCA SHEIR

13:47:13
Cheverly, Md., just outside Washington D.C., has a bit of a mystery on its hands. These giant booms have been shaking houses and waking up residents. And while theories abound as to just what the heck is going on, nobody's been able to figure it out. So WAMU's Sabri Ben-Achour got on the case.

MR. SABRI BEN-ACHOUR

13:47:32
Cheverly, Md. has a problem.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN 1

13:47:36
It sounds like dropping a 500 pound beer 50 feet on top of your roof.

BEN-ACHOUR

13:47:39
Booms, mysterious sounds.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN 1

13:47:43
It's an explosion, that's what it really sounds like.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN 2

13:47:44
The loudest one is comparable to an earthquake.

1

13:47:48
A bomb.

1

13:47:48
Sometimes the water shakes out of the cat bowl.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN 2

13:47:51
It shakes these bars on our windows.

1

13:47:55
The whole house shook.

BEN-ACHOUR

13:47:56
That's Tad Kaminski (sp?) , Helen Brock, Rachel Audi and Josh Molhoun (sp?). They all live or work in Cheverly. These booms have been going on for...

1

13:48:04
Years.

1

13:48:04
Probably 10 years.

1

13:48:06
For the last 10 years, at least.

BEN-ACHOUR

13:48:10
There have been more than 250 incidents reported in just the past two years. David Warrington is the town administrator.

MR. DAVID WARRINGTON

13:48:15
I can tell you, I filled some of these calls and the frustration level is there and it's, like, something's got to be done.

BEN-ACHOUR

13:48:21
So this year, Warrington and Cheverly Mayor Mike Callahan put out a call for help in the form of a $2500 cash reward for anyone who can offer an explanation.

MR. MIKE CALLAHAN

13:48:29
That's right. If they can prove it, they get $2500,so...

BEN-ACHOUR

13:48:34
So I enlisted the help of one of our trustiest of trusty WAMU interns, Sylvia Carignan.

MS. SYLVIA CARIGNAN

13:48:38
Hi Sabri.

BEN-ACHOUR

13:48:40
Sylvia, if you can help me crack this, I will totally split the $400 reward with you.

CARIGNAN

13:48:41
I thought it was 2500...

BEN-ACHOUR

13:48:44
Uh, so Sylvia, let's talk about what the booms could be.

CARIGNAN

13:48:45
Well, there are a lot of theories. It could be earthquakes.

BEN-ACHOUR

13:48:50
Earthquakes? How is that possible?

CARIGNAN

13:48:52
Well, I talked to professor Martin Chapman at Virginia Tech. He studied similar booms in Richmond and they're actually caused by the sound of the ground shifting.

MR. MARTIN CHAPMAN

13:49:00
These booms are fairly common actually, out in the piedmont part of the southern Appalachians. I would say it's almost certainly got to be earthquakes.

BEN-ACHOUR

13:49:07
Hmm. Well, okay. But remember when we had that earthquake in Maryland over the summer?

CARIGNAN

13:49:11
Yeah, it woke me up at 5:00 a.m.

BEN-ACHOUR

13:49:14
Yeah, that shook people's homes, but it wasn't just felt in one spot. Here's geologist Aaron Martin with the University of Maryland.

MR. AARON MARTIN

13:49:19
The fact that it's so narrowly confined, but still feelable, you know, that's somewhat puzzling. So I certainly wouldn't want to say that it's not earthquakes, but I feel like it could be something else, too.

BEN-ACHOUR

13:49:29
And he says there is actually a fault line in D.C., but...

CHAPMAN

13:49:34
It's located between the zoo and the White House.

CARIGNAN

13:49:38
Oh, that's like eight miles from Cheverly.

BEN-ACHOUR

13:49:39
Yeah, plus, if it was earthquake-related, he says regional seismographs should've picked it up.

CARIGNAN

13:49:44
Okay. So what other theories are there?

BEN-ACHOUR

13:49:47
Well, there's actually a lot. I mean, there's everything from electrical fields to underground springs. But one that I think is possible is Andrew's Air Force Base. It's four miles to the south. Mayor Callahan says they're one of the more recent suspects.

CALLAHAN

13:50:00
There are all kinds of aircraft that go in and out of there.

BEN-ACHOUR

13:50:03
And the U.S. government has gotten in trouble for this kind of thing before, according to Jewel Barlow, Professor of Aerospace Engineering at the University of Maryland.

MR. JEWEL BARLOW

13:50:11
They took a B-58 and they flew them supersonically at random intervals over Oklahoma City and Atlanta, resulted in lots of lawsuits.

CARIGNAN

13:50:20
But that was in the 1960s. I talked to brigadier General Jeffrey Johnson, he's the 113 wing commander at Andrews, and he says the rules have changed since then.

MR. JEFFREY JOHNSON

13:50:29
It's not an area where we fly or are allowed to fly supersonic and had we, there would be multiple complaints from all over the place. So in my opinion, that possibility is almost nil.

BEN-ACHOUR

13:50:43
Well, there is another possibility. There's actually a huge junkyard south of town. They crush cars and refrigerators and stuff. Josh Goode can actually see it from his office.

MR. JOSH GOODE

13:50:52
You can feel the building shake. Sometimes it's much more intense, sometimes it's not that bad at all, but -- and you'll see huge clouds come out, and flames, and walls of flame and everything like that.

CARIGNAN

13:51:01
We talked to Joseph Smith and Son's junkyard and they didn't return any of our calls.

BEN-ACHOUR

13:51:09
And asked us to leave.

CARIGNAN

13:51:10
Yeah, they asked us to leave the property.

BEN-ACHOUR

13:51:10
But Cheverly's administrator, David Warrington, says they've checked out that junkyard.

WARRINGTON

13:51:14
Our police went out when calls came in in the middle of night and there was no activity there so there was no correlation between what they were doing and these booms.

CARIGNAN

13:51:24
We're running out of theories.

BEN-ACHOUR

13:51:24
Yeah, I know. We're in the same boat as Warrington.

WARRINGTON

13:51:29
So you're starting to understand my frustration, aren't you?

WARRINGTON

13:51:31
Feel my pain.

BEN-ACHOUR

13:51:32
And for the folks in Cheverly who've had had to deal with rattled nerves and broken dishware and being shaken out of bed, it's even more frustrating.

CARIGNAN

13:51:40
The town is considering hiring a sound specialist.

BEN-ACHOUR

13:51:45
But if anyone listening has any ideas...

CARIGNAN

13:51:45
And can prove them, the $2500 reward is out there.

BEN-ACHOUR

13:51:51
Anyone? I'm Sabri Ben-Achour. And thank you Sylvia Carignan so much for all your help.

CARIGNAN

13:51:56
My pleasure.
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