Update: Sonic booms from military aircraft rock West Seattle

(We’re continuing to add info as more is learned about this afternoon’s sonic booms)

ORIGINALLY POSTED SHORT ITEM AT 1:50 PM: (We originally reported “Yes, we heard it too” after the two double sonic booms rocked WSB HQ in Fauntleroy. Then the servers jammed. We were also tweeting – here’s our first one – and FB’ing – first status here.)

UPDATE: KING5 confirms with FAA that military jets caused the sonic booms. Apparently they were scrambled for a possible breach of the no-fly zone. On the scanner, we hear they came here from Portland.

2:12 PM UPDATE: Southwest Precinct says that they have received official confirmation of the military jet cause. There is no word of any damage or injury at this point. Our apologies about the site’s inaccessibility – literally thousands of people slammed it at once and we are dealing with our server management company to be sure that would never be a problem again.

According to the scanner, the aircraft were scrambled because of a no-fly zone breach during the president’s visit. The location of the no-fly zone breach seems to vary depending on which citywide-media source you look at/listen to – anything from Lake Union to Boeing Field. Continuing to look for official verdicts.

2:25 PM UPDATE: We continued updating Facebook and Twitter while the server was inaccessible and as noted there – the 911 calls, according to scanner traffic, had been coming largely from West Seattle. So WS felt the brunt of it.

Our partners at the Seattle Times now have a short article up (and we’re sure it will be updated as they get more) – read it here. And if you are interested in reading what people are saying on Twitter – here’s the ongoing monitor of the phrase “sonic booms.

2:38 PM: Seeing and hearing reports that the seaplane pilot is being questioned on Lake Union.

2:54 PM: There have been different types of aircraft reported by different citywide sources but now the prevailing ID seems to be F-15s, Oregon Air National Guard. Will add citation/link as soon as we find it. Meantime, we have been checking the mailboxes and other incoming sources and it still does not appear anyone’s reported damage – let us know if you have heard/seen otherwise.

3:10 PM: If you’ll pardon the soundtrack – here’s the first video we found on what a sonic boom LOOKS like. Will sub out if we find a better explainer:

Here’s a gallery of photos related to Oregon ANG F-15s.

3:20 PM:
Here is the official NORAD statement – from its Facebook page!

SONIC BOOMS over Seattle: NORAD responded to an aircraft violating a VIP Temporary Flight Restricted Area near Seattle at approximately 1:35 PDT. F15s from the 142nd Fighter Wing, Oregon Air National Guard in Portland, were scrambled to intercept the aircraft. The aircraft departed the TFR prior to intercept but in the… process of intercepting the aircraft, the F15s went super-sonic near the Seattle Area.

NORAD responded to a question following that status update, regarding why jets weren’t scrambled from McChord in Pierce County instead:

The aircraft on alert at the time were from Portland. Also, McChord does not usually have fighters stationed there. As for going supersonic, the U.S. Air Force has the best trained and equipped force in the world. They fly very safe.

3:56 PM: A Normandy Park woman on the floatplane that caused the fighters to rush this way has told the Associated Press she and the pilot had no idea about the flight restrictions.

4:03 PM: The president has left Seattle – Air Force One has taken off. (4:32 pm – adding photo David DeSiga shared via Facebook, where we’re seeing multiple comments that the jet was visible from West Seattle after takeoff)

NORAD has published its official “news release” – although frankly, the Facebook status we republished above was more informative!

4:52 PM: The Times has continued to update its story. (And has a photo of the floatplane pilot with a Secret Service agent.) This quick excerpt addresses one of our remaining questions:

Officials said it would be a national security risk to say how fast the planes were traveling, but even at sub-supersonic speeds it would take not much longer than 10 minutes to make the trip from Portland.

5:06 PM: Well, maybe we can get back to writing the story we were working on before all this. Now the humor races in: Somebody created a foursquare check-in for “F15 Sonic Booms.” Second, you can put in for an “Obooma!” T-shirt.

88 Replies to "Update: Sonic booms from military aircraft rock West Seattle"

  • Ken August 17, 2010 (1:52 pm)

    Sunrise Heights — sounded awfully close. But hard to tell. Don’t see or smell anything.

  • Janet August 17, 2010 (1:53 pm)

    WOW. So fast. I heart the West Seattle blog!

  • mrsB August 17, 2010 (1:54 pm)

    The first double-boom shook the house and then the second one was louder….by Admiral and 53rd/Lander.

  • BB August 17, 2010 (1:55 pm)

    South Park Bridge?

  • Peter August 17, 2010 (1:56 pm)

    Seaview – sounded North of us. We could feel it a bit.

  • cathyw August 17, 2010 (1:57 pm)

    Very loud at Alki. Our house shuddered.

  • AM August 17, 2010 (1:58 pm)

    Thanks WSB. Will stay tuned. South Delridge-sounded very close, shook the windows.

  • M August 17, 2010 (1:59 pm)

    Sound was heard and felt in Puyallup and Tacoma, as well. Had to have been something huge.

  • Gussychairs August 17, 2010 (2:01 pm)

    Pigeon Point — was napping — it jolted me awake. Sounded as if something had landed on the house. Neighbors came out of houses, all saying “WTF?!!”

  • wuchi August 17, 2010 (2:03 pm)

    SW Alaska ST. All of my neighbors came out of their homes. Sounded like a pile driver or sonic boom.

  • Heidi August 17, 2010 (2:03 pm)

    I live in Admiral and it felt like a bomb went off very near my house. Twice.

  • Chris August 17, 2010 (2:04 pm)

    Air Force One just took off, so it was probably the sonic boom from fighter jets.

  • Julie Baker August 17, 2010 (2:06 pm)

    Was it a sonic boom from Obama’s security?

  • MeanGene August 17, 2010 (2:06 pm)

    Arbor Heights – approx. SW 100th – thought it was on my roof.

  • Agen Schmitz August 17, 2010 (2:07 pm)

    Heard from some Facebook friends that booms were heard in downtown and Beacon Hill.

  • Eddie August 17, 2010 (2:07 pm)

    AirForce One is still on the ground at East Boeing Field as of 2:07.

  • mondo August 17, 2010 (2:08 pm)

    King5 and the PI both state that it was sonic booms from military aircraft. No word yet on if it was associated with Obama’s visit.

  • wsgal August 17, 2010 (2:08 pm)

    KOMO News says:

    FAA confirms loud booms heard across Puget Sound area were sonic booms from F-15s flying in the area.

  • dameDonna August 17, 2010 (2:08 pm)

    It’s been heard all over. So friends people as far south as Tacoma and far east as Bellevue heard it, too. One said it was sonic booms from military aircraft. I’m not positive though. I grew up in a military town and we had testing and sonic booms all the time and this was worse.

  • AdmiralRob August 17, 2010 (2:08 pm)

    FAA confirms loud booms heard across Puget Sound area were sonic booms from F-15s flying in the area.

  • Cat Woman August 17, 2010 (2:08 pm)

    King5 site says it was sonic booms from military aircraft per the FAA

  • Ken August 17, 2010 (2:09 pm)

    Looks like this site is crashing from all the sudden traffic — I’m seeing reports on Twitter that say it was sonic booms from two military jets flying over the area.

  • Doug August 17, 2010 (2:09 pm)

    Probably 2 fighter jets heading northbound (judging from the direction of the residual sound), in supersonic flight. They’re not supposed to do this over land for obvious reasons. Must be chasing pot smugglers ;)

    My first thought was that the space shuttle was making it’s descent (it has a similar double boom), but then I heard the second double boom.

  • tincanrocket August 17, 2010 (2:09 pm)

    Heard that a vessel came into restricted waters and Air Force let off sonic boom warning due to Obama visit

  • JG August 17, 2010 (2:09 pm)

    West Seattle in Genesse Hill it was loud and clear.

  • JL August 17, 2010 (2:09 pm)

    Heard on scanner: Seattle traffic control confirms these were sonic booms from fighters that had been scrambled. I assume this is related to Obama’s visit.

  • Aaron August 17, 2010 (2:10 pm)

    Shook our house in the Gatewood area and really scared our dogs.

  • mrsB August 17, 2010 (2:10 pm)

    From komonews.com
    “FAA confirms loud booms heard across Puget Sound area were sonic booms from F-15s flying in the area. Agency says “Presidential air space” was breached”

  • Dan August 17, 2010 (2:10 pm)

    Down in Georgetown and they shook the building slightly.

  • Dominic August 17, 2010 (2:11 pm)

    Lake Burien. Thought a car drove info my house. Twice.

  • Kerry August 17, 2010 (2:13 pm)

    West Seattle Blog, I love you. Not one second after the explosions, I logged on, and you were already on it. You rock!

  • Diane August 17, 2010 (2:46 pm)

    yay, westseattleblog working again; in Admiral, first got info re booms on twitter; I also thought something crashed on roof, twice, and “wtf”
    much relieved to hear it was protected air space
    fun to hear everyone felt it

  • bridge to somewhere August 17, 2010 (2:47 pm)

    I guess those booms are pretty good proof that despite what citizens report, the Blue Angels don’t actually go supersonic over Seattle. Loud, yes; sonic boom, no.

  • Marie August 17, 2010 (2:47 pm)

    Big thanks to West Seattle Blog for keeping us informed!

  • newnative August 17, 2010 (2:48 pm)

    the first one sent me out the door to yell at my neighbor. the 2nd one sounded more like a sonic boom.

  • tom August 17, 2010 (2:49 pm)

    marine view dr, shorewood on the sound…pictures jumped off the walls, glass everywhere…rocked the house.

  • wowza August 17, 2010 (2:49 pm)

    It’s pretty cool to see that type of protection in action. Although it scared the bejesus out of me and my whole house shook. I wonder why they come from Portland when we have bases here?

  • me on 28th Ave SW August 17, 2010 (2:49 pm)

    We were driving towards Burien and heard/felt a thump, almost as if the trunk was open and bouncing. My son and I looked at each other and said “what was that?”. By the time we traveled another block on Ambaum groups of people were standing on the sidewalks all looking West or up in the air. That was what was freaky!

  • Bob Loblaw August 17, 2010 (2:52 pm)

    I love how 99% of people first thought it was “that a-hole upstairs again” before the news clarified itself. C’mon, admit that’s what you thought too! LOL.

  • @work downtown August 17, 2010 (2:59 pm)

    99% of people are home in the early afternoon and live in a multi-level appartment? Interesting.

  • JAT August 17, 2010 (2:59 pm)

    Apparently the 9-1-1 system in Pierce County crashed from so many calls, and I’ve heard that in Seattle West Seattle was the highest 9-1-1 response area.

    On the one hand I can understand, but on the other hand, get a grip, people!…

  • Diane August 17, 2010 (3:01 pm)

    hilarious Bob Loblaw
    but the only upstairs creatures I get are huge black birds landing & running on roof; even they can’t make that much noise
    I was looking to see what crashed into building, especially after drunk driver crashed into bunch of cars few blocks away last night; and drunk woman crashed into house behind me couple weeks ago; sounded very similar to that

  • christopherboffoli August 17, 2010 (3:02 pm)

    wowza: I’m hearing rumors that the jets originated from McChord AFB just south of Tacoma. With a maximum speed of 1650 knots they were probably here in minutes.

  • xyz August 17, 2010 (3:02 pm)

    According to KOMO’s website, it was a float plane from Canada that landed at a Kenmore float plane harbor. I don’t know if they landed at a Kenmore Air facility in Lake Union or Lake Washington. Secret Service plans to talk with the pilot of the float plane.

  • shihtzu August 17, 2010 (3:02 pm)

    Why DO people call 911 for stuff like this? Strikes me as annoying, but funny.

  • Lisa August 17, 2010 (3:03 pm)

    -that shook me up pretty good when it happened. Thanks WSB for keeping us informed.. No 911 call needed, of course :) Thanks for all your great work!

  • JAT August 17, 2010 (3:17 pm)

    They originated from PDX The two jets took off from the 142nd Oregon Air National Guard Wing in Portland, said spokeswoman Major Melinda Lapore.(thanks Seattle Times) and by my reckoning they got here in 12 minutes.

    McChord is pretty much cargo planes and NAS Whidbey maritime patrol and electronics warfare.

  • JBL August 17, 2010 (3:19 pm)

    Bob: Although my wife’s word DID think it was that a–hole upstairs, I thought my spare propane tank exploded downstairs!

  • Stephen Saunders August 17, 2010 (3:19 pm)

    Update..nothing to do with Kenmore Air. Private seaplane with NON-Kenmore Air pilot. He parks his plane at the Kenmore Air North building hence the questions here at Lake Union.

  • Lea August 17, 2010 (3:21 pm)

    Both booms were heard and felt here in Tacoma. Shook the house and scared the dogs.

    Northwest News & KOMO still saying it was F15’s out of Portland. Why scramble from Portland when McChord AFB is so much closer?

    • WSB August 17, 2010 (3:37 pm)

      Lea, I just found the “why not McChord?” explanation on the NORAD site (maybe that was even you who asked) … Basically, Oregon is who was on call at the moment. And they don’t fly quite this kind of thing. Meantime, for Shihtzu – re: why people call 911 – It’s the same reason people also flood news switchboards. Our phone started going crazy. (Sorry if we didn’t pick up for someone, but while I was scouring for info, my co-publisher was calling our server company to get the capacity boosted ASAP.) People experience it very personally. It wasn’t immediately apparent that it was something experienced by tens of thousands (if not more) – it sounded so close, it could have been something exploding down the block – and I’m sure that’s how it sounded to many, many other people – TR

  • CanDo August 17, 2010 (3:24 pm)

    Quite a testament to the WS Blog, that thousands of people tried to instantly log on to find out what was happening. Scared me and the dog and I didn’t even think of turning on the TV. I grabbed my computer and tried to find the BLOG. Love the WS Blog!!!

  • Bonnie August 17, 2010 (3:27 pm)

    I was at the Arbor Heights Pool and it felt like it was right over us!

  • Joann August 17, 2010 (3:30 pm)

    In Highland Park all the windows shook and the car alarms started blaring. I was asleep and it scared the crap out of me. Jumped out of bed and looked outside to see all the neighbors in the street looking up. Heard one of them saying, “I wonder where they came from.” I instantly thought to come here to see what was up.

  • Isaac August 17, 2010 (3:35 pm)

    Facebook gettin BLOWN up cause of this lol.

    Was hopin this was some suicidal North Korean attack haha. (All in good fun, people)

  • SSM August 17, 2010 (3:35 pm)

    Whoa. Had an urge to run for cover. Staying grounded in Arbor Heights! WSB is supersonic. Thanks!

  • An777 August 17, 2010 (3:36 pm)

    In Georgetown and whole building shook, twice.
    We are a Construction Company so figured some one dropped some equipment on the roof.

  • Marc August 17, 2010 (3:37 pm)

    Can you imagine the surprise of the (likely) accidental TFR zone violator at suddenly being “escorted” by a pair of super-sonic F15s? The sight and sound alone would be enough to frighten most people out of the sky!

    • WSB August 17, 2010 (3:42 pm)

      Marc, the NORAD statement I added said there was no intercept, so I don’t think they got escorted.

  • Bob Loblaw August 17, 2010 (3:48 pm)

    @work downtown Sorry, will make it a West Seattle related joke: 99% of people who live in ugly townhomes …

  • sam August 17, 2010 (3:48 pm)

    I somehow missed it- was on 99 getting ready to get on the West Seattle bridge and heard nothing at that time. my spouse thought it sounded exactly like the time the tree company dropped a large chunk of tree on our house and immediately called a neighbor “did you hear that?”

    so many people reporting being woken from naps in the middle of the afternoon. I’m jealous!

  • Derek August 17, 2010 (3:50 pm)

    Oh, missed it! How does it sound? I think I heard one when I was 5 years old. It’s sort of like the Blue Angels zooming by, a bit louder, much shorter, like a boom (not the long duration of noise with the Blue Angels).

  • Melissa August 17, 2010 (3:50 pm)

    Did anyone else notice that the Seattle Times article took its definition of sonic boom almost verbatim from Wikipedia? Hell, I’d looked it up there; I expect more sophisticated research from the Times. Oh, wait….

    And yep, terrified dog and shaking house here too. We thought it was a bomb.

  • fred August 17, 2010 (3:52 pm)

    heard it in AUBURN if you can believe that?!?

  • bridge to somewhere August 17, 2010 (3:55 pm)

    As an aside, the sonic boom was a major problem for the Concorde and severely reduced its potential routes. Initially they wanted to fly Concorde all over the country and the world, but citizens quickly rallied against having sonic booms breaking windows every time the Concorde flew over. So Concorde was limited to flying supersonic over the oceans (e.g., on the NY to London route) — where the only ones to hear such booms were the poor sea creatures and the likely quite mystified ship captains they flew over. :-)

  • side of blue cheese August 17, 2010 (4:02 pm)

    @sam I missed it too. I had just parked in my driveway with two kids and a dog. When I stepped out my neighbor was wanting to know if I heard two really loud crash-like booms. …noth’n. Just goes to show how much noise we can become accustomed to either by living in a city or raising kids.

  • mary August 17, 2010 (4:20 pm)

    interestingly enough after finding out it wasnt a neighbor the first conclusion i came to was that my house was haunted.

  • JimmyG August 17, 2010 (4:27 pm)

    Shame on anyone who called 911 after hearing a loud boom.

    Yes, it shook our building and was loud, but once you realize your building is standing and you’re just fine, why would you call 911?

    To ask about a loud noise?

  • RG August 17, 2010 (4:27 pm)

    This was a good reminder for me that there will not be a 911 if there is a community disaster (eg The Big One). Am checking my disaster kits and rotating out my emergency water.

  • Babs August 17, 2010 (4:28 pm)

    I thought it was an earthquake because you hear that boom just before the earth starts shaking, my apartment building at the top of Avalon way shook and rolled. SCARY. Wow, all of that from the power of a jet. “Sonic rock n roll.”

  • LunaPark August 17, 2010 (4:35 pm)

    We live near Harbor Is. in W. Seattle and the sonic boom sent us running from the house. It felt like a large vehicle had run into our home; very scary. Maybe the president should stay home next time, we’re dealing with enough these days without being rattled without warning.

  • B August 17, 2010 (4:36 pm)

    McChord only has cargo planes, that is why the fighters came out of Portland.

  • gp August 17, 2010 (4:50 pm)

    The boom was definetly centered in West Seattle, because an f15 flying at Mach 1 only goes mach 1 for the fraction of a second its over west seattle.

    Yes, there is a world outside of west seattle that also heard the sonic boom as if it was directly overhead. That is science in action.

  • dhg August 17, 2010 (4:58 pm)

    So a little float plane flew from Chelan to Lake Washington and landed in Lake Washington before the “security planes” could intercept. That would be counted as a failure in my book.

    But their goals are not my goals. My goal is to have no sonic booms overhead. Who’s with me?

  • bridge to somewhere August 17, 2010 (5:02 pm)

    Although you may have a point about the failure to intercept, my goal remains their goal: to try to protect the president. Sorry, but that’s WAY more important to me than the confusion that came about from a sonic boom.

  • lenguamor August 17, 2010 (5:05 pm)

    dhg: grow a pair.

  • miws August 17, 2010 (5:59 pm)

    LunaPark, maybe the floatplane pilot should stay at home if he is allegedly imcompetent enough that he “forgets”, in the words of a KOMO 4 reporter, that there was a temporary air space restriction.


    TR brings up a good point in her post of 3:37 regarding calling 911.


    I probably haven’t heard a sonic boom since the late ’60’s when Boeing was doing test flights of their SST. So, I didn’t even think of it being that. I’m also not very familiar with the sounds of various gunshots, other than what one would hear on TV shows and movies.


    Since it wasn’t a “pop-pop” sound I’d expect from gunfire, my first two thoughts, oddly enough, were a cannon, or something heavy and solid falling over. Then maybe 30 seconds or so later then second boom came. After the first one, I jumped up and looked out my back, west facing window, (which I was sitting right next to) and looked outside, and didn’t notice anything out if the ordinary. I don’t actually recall feeling anything, probably just too shocked from the sound.


    Looked out the front window overlooking California Av, and didn’t see anything. Didn’t even notice anyone else reacting. Went back and looked out the back window again, and all I noticed was my downstairs neighbor taking her garbage out, and thought it was weird that she wasn’t looking around, since this was probably only 2-3 minutes after the booms.


    Thought about calling 911, but figured someone else would have done so. So, as much as I hate to see 911 tied up for nonsense crap, such as somebody calling because their fast food order was screwed up, or calling on Thanksgiving to ask how long to cook the turkey, (and in such incidents I’d like to see a minimum of a hefty fine attached to the person’s phone bill, if not misdemeanor charges filed), like TR said, this seemed very localized. I literally thought it had happened in the alley behind me, or the next block over in that direction.



  • Johnston August 17, 2010 (6:36 pm)

    If anyone is looking to buy a float plane or a getaway place on lake Chelan, I think they’re both going to be for sale soon! The pilot didn’t check for NOTAMs and caused a national security incident…goodbye pilot license! He’ll probably be on the hook for scrambling the fighters…ouch! Hope you had a nice long weekend!

  • EmmyJane August 17, 2010 (6:38 pm)

    WSB- Thanks (again) for the great reporting. It was so good that I forgot I was also cooking and burned my dinner. :-) I couldn’t (figuratively) put you down.

  • fuzzy August 17, 2010 (7:47 pm)

    aw darn, just trekked down to my garage tonight and discovered some damage! A large metal grate blew off (fell?) the furnace and landed on my car leaving a inch long scrape and dent plus some superficial scrapes. Probably just under value to make an insurance claim. Nuts!

  • Sue August 17, 2010 (8:12 pm)

    @bridge to somewhere, I went to junior very close to Kennedy Airport during the late 70s when the Concorde was flying. It took of daily at the same time and the sound was deafening. The teachers would simply have to stop speaking until it passed, and the whole building shook. And this wasn’t even during the sonic boom portion of the trip. I can see why people didn’t want it flying over their homes.
    Given that history, I guess I can understand why I didn’t even flinch during the sonic boom today!

  • bridge to somewhere August 17, 2010 (8:42 pm)

    @Sue: Cool memory! I wish I would have been able to see (and hear!) the Concorde fly.

  • Silly Goose August 17, 2010 (8:50 pm)

    @ Johnston my thoughts exactly, the President is in town you are flying in a plane and you don’t check the fly zone!! Bye bye birdie!!

    Well I was sure the roof came off and my windows had blown out but all is well, wow what a BOOM BOOM that was, I thought we had an unknown Meth house in the neighborhood that had blown up!! HA HA HEE HEE Then when we ran outside we heard the whiz and rush of the jets go over head and knew it was something much more turned on the TV and nothing but soap opera’s the WS BLOG was down so we just sat on the porch and waited!! What a crazy afternoon in West Seattle!!

  • dude August 17, 2010 (9:36 pm)

    waste of tax-payer dollars. especially since he was in town playing politics.

  • Veegee August 17, 2010 (9:53 pm)

    Hey, heard LOUD and clear in Centralia/Chehalis area! Shook the house really bad, scared the entire neighborhood, everyone was walking around as we thot one of the houses on the block had blown up due to a natural gas explosion or something it was so loud, not the same sonic booms I remember as a kid, this was SCAREY loud! And if it happened much closer to Seattle area, means it must have been horrible loud there.

    Now I can see why they banned them years and years ago!

  • AnotherIdiotInWS August 18, 2010 (10:32 am)

    I love how people get upset and lament the “wasted tax payer dollars” when Obama comes to stump… but when Bush did it, it was a mandatory part of American life. This dates back all the way to the late 1700’s people. Presidents used to be on horseback to a train and today – on an airplane.

  • Alkira August 18, 2010 (8:07 pm)

    Enjoyed reading the comments a day later. It’s a great read. “What was it?” “Maybe a sonic boom?” WSB is, of course, a local treasure. But I also love the fact that readers leave great, informative and entertaining comments. Not like other sites where the comments are just silly or gratuitously inflammatory. Love the WSB and my WS neighbors.

  • dude August 18, 2010 (10:01 pm)

    yeah that’s totally true. no one around here ever gave bush any criticism when he came to town. short memory dummy.

Sorry, comment time is over.