Is ‘the hum’ industrial noise? Many reports, few complaints – so far

By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor

Some call it “the hum”; some call it words we don’t publish here. It’s a mystery sound, most often reported at night, most often heard from eastern West Seattle. Whatever it is, e-mails and a variety of other messages, plus a spirited WSB Forum discussion, indicate the sound is back.

We first mentioned it here in the news section in 2009. It has come up now and then in the ensuing years. If you have never heard it – Julie in Highland Park resident recorded it early Monday and sent us the audio file. We uploaded it – the first :28 of this clip is fairly normal neighborhood noise, and then it begins.

She explains:

I made the attached recording on Sept 3 just after midnight (12:44 am) using the Voice Memo app on my iPhone, while I was standing on my front porch. I left the sound of a car driving by for context – the noise becomes louder and more audible at about 27 seconds into the recording. I just think that the fact that it registers at all on my cell phone shows how loud it is! This sound, which I can hear inside my house too, has been going on seemingly 24-7 since at least last Thursday.

The city investigates noise complaints. Ahead, what a city rep says about this, plus our conversation with a top manager at the industrial site some think might be to blame:

We inquired with the city Department of Planning and Development‘s noise inspector; the reply came from a department spokesperson, Bryan Stevens. His reply boils down to the same thing we’ve heard in the past – you have to tell them who’s to blame, before they’ll take it further:

As of yesterday, DPD had received one complaint about this specific concern in West Seattle. We are complaint-based, so we rely on the public to notify us of their specific issue and the location of the source. It can be difficult to pinpoint a noise source, especially when you have changes in topography in the immediate area. However, we need to know the potential source location in order to respond with an inspection. It often helps to know what time of day the noise is heard as well. We’re not aware of this complaint being filed in the recent past.

In order to follow up, someone has to capture the noise to determine if a violation occurred (inspector or neighbor). The noise has to be louder than 45-50 dBA at the receiving site in order to be a violation. It was suggested by the complainant that the noise may be coming from Lafarge, but that is over 11,000 feet from the receiving site and has two hills between them and the site. We’d expect to have heard from neighbors immediately adjacent to Lafarge if that was the source, as they would have to be generate noise in the range of 150 dBA to travel 11,000 feet and still be a violation. The noise ordinance that DPD enforces is an objective standard, so hearing an unusual noise doesn’t always mean it’s a noise violation. Neighbors can report a potential violation by calling our noise abatement coordinators at (206) 684-7843 or (206) 615-1760.

On this particular complaint, we would need neighbors to locate the source before we inspect.

So what about the contention by one WSB Forum member that it can be traced to the Lafarge plant in the 5400 block of West Marginal Way SW, on the western shore of the Duwamish River?

We talked early this morning with operations manager Jonathan Hall. He says our e-mail to the company yesterday asking for comment was the first he had heard of the noise. He’s been at the West Seattle plant for two years and while he says “people who have history here (mentioned) complaints over the years, there haven’t been any issues in the two years that I have been here.”

First, what this plant does: Hall reminded us that “about 70 percent of the plant (is) mothballed” – there was a significant operations cutback in 2010, with layoffs. They bring in cement from Richmond, B.C., via truck and rail, plus “a bit on barge.” Some slag-grinding is done to make a recycled cementitious product called NewCem. But Hall says the main stack, kiln, and cooler aren’t running; there was a tire-burning project that shut down before he even started. No coal or coke is being burned, and none of the previously problematic emissions.

But, Hall said, “There’s no way I can say it’s not us .. We’re always doing maintenance, and it’s certainly possible that a maintenance activity changed the way something sounds.”

The plant was operating over Labor Day weekend, he confirmed. Its schedule “depends on the season and needs.”

While he hadn’t heard from the city when we talked with him – and as our city response indicates, they aren’t to the stage of investigating anyone or anything without additional complaints – “if we can nail it down as coming from here,” Hall told WSB, “we’re keen to be able to work with people, to make reasonable improvements to make it go away, if in fact it is us.”

In hopes of finding out more, Lafarge has set up a voice mailbox so you can call with information if you hear it and you believe it’s coming from their plant. The number is 206-336-0988. If you call, the company says, you’ll get a call back, and they will check daily.

But first, as mentioned earlier, the city says they need to hear more about this before they can investigate, and they need specifics. Their inspectors are at (206) 684-7843 or (206) 615-1760.

2:52 PM UPDATE: DPD’s Bryan Stevens just sent a quick update:

We’ve received a few more complaints which will help to narrow down the search for our inspectors. We have two noise inspectors for the entire city, so we really don’t have resources to hunt down a noise source. But with the recent complaints and the noise clip in the blog, our inspectors now know what people are hearing and what area may be causing it.

202 Replies to "Is 'the hum' industrial noise? Many reports, few complaints - so far"

  • HPMom September 5, 2012 (12:53 pm)

    I have definitely heard this noise. I would love for it to stop.

  • Bob Zickes September 5, 2012 (12:57 pm)

    The slag grinding the operations manager mentioned sounds like it could be the culprit because the sound we are hearing is a grinding kind of noise. When are they doing the grinding? If it is from Midnight to 4 AM, that would also coincide with the noise West Seattle residents are hearing.

    Also, I don’t buy the fact that the City hasn’t gotten many or any complaints from people nearby the cement plant as a reason that the noise couldn’t be coming from the plant. There aren’t that many people that live near the plant. But there are a lot of people in West Seattle that have heard the noise and we want something done about it.

    What does it take for the City to go out and check it out? What would that hurt?

  • KatherineL September 5, 2012 (12:57 pm)

    I think we need something other than loudness to qualify sounds. That sound clip isn’t loud, but it hurt my ears to listen to it.

  • HP Rez September 5, 2012 (12:58 pm)

    We were just talking about this on the way into work this morning – boy was it LOUD last night!

  • cjp September 5, 2012 (12:59 pm)

    Sounds like its time to make T-shirts and bumper stickers and open bed and breakfasts in the area promising hum-tours. We’ll be the next Taos NM.

  • jno September 5, 2012 (1:06 pm)

    I heard this a couple nights ago from west of 35th! It would come and go, but it was SO obnoxious!

  • Brian September 5, 2012 (1:07 pm)

    At Puget Ridge and we closed the windows for the night because it was so loud. I’ll be sure to send a complaint to DPD next time I notice it.

  • Aaron September 5, 2012 (1:07 pm)

    I always figured it was just the train moving rail cars around down on W. Marginal.

  • sb in ws September 5, 2012 (1:08 pm)

    I could still hear it through my ear plugs. Hard to fall asleep with it.

  • WestSeattleDrew September 5, 2012 (1:11 pm)

    I always thought the HUM came from the steel mill, maybe from the giant fans. On 37th and Charleston you can hear it almost 24/7 for as long as I can remember… And then there’s the train horns, 3 honks at the intersection by the Chelan Cafe at all hours of the morning.

  • sam-c September 5, 2012 (1:18 pm)

    I haven’t heard it recently but did hear it in the past (2009). when I heard it previously, it actually seemed worse with the windows closed- the noise reverberated through the windows. we’ve had a window fan going, so maybe that blocks out the noise. that recording does capture how awfully annoying that hum is. hopefully someone gets to the bottom of it.

    it is definitely not trains- they are always blowing their horns- which doesn’t bother me.

  • Hoyne September 5, 2012 (1:21 pm)

    Hmm. All weekend I kept thinking my neighbors were running a loud fan. Maybe this is actually the noise I was hearing? I don’t recall hearing it at night, but we sleep in our basement so we are pretty sheltered from noise down there.
    For reference, I’m at 32nd and Holden.

  • pman September 5, 2012 (1:24 pm)

    I heard this late last night. So glad to read this — thought I was crazy.

  • bridge to somewhere September 5, 2012 (1:24 pm)

    I heard it too in Westwood, right next to WWV. Totally unacceptable, it was SOOO long and obnoxious. I didn’t realize the city had a place to file a complaint (which is probably the case with the neighbors of this place too), but now that I do, I will be complaining. Loudly.

  • bridge to somewhere September 5, 2012 (1:26 pm)

    Also, what’s an “inspector” do if the citizen is supposed to identify the source?

  • Tony September 5, 2012 (1:29 pm)

    I’ve heard it 2-3 nights out of the past 5. Definitely coming from due east of High Point. Changes in pitch & volume. After 10pm.

  • Lisa September 5, 2012 (1:33 pm)

    My husband and I couldn’t sleep at all last night due to “the hum”. It is ridiculously loud! We live on 37th off of Thistle. Would love to know what’s making the noise – and for it to stop! :)

  • Sharon Akers September 5, 2012 (1:33 pm)

    I have been wondering if I have been imagining this hum of noise. I live on the edge of Lincoln park and have heard it very clearly late at night!!!!!

  • KR September 5, 2012 (1:35 pm)

    I totally heard that all night long. Through ear plugs too. Thought it was trains and/or helicopters.

  • West Seattle Sun September 5, 2012 (1:35 pm)

    I have it narrowed down to the Parking Lot Maintenance vehicles that service most of the large lots. They typically work swing shifts to avoid the daytime lot traffic.
    The problem is they are producing noise pollution that is easily heard long distances when road noice and household noise is at it’s lowest levels.

  • dcn September 5, 2012 (1:35 pm)

    I live near SW Community Center Pool and have been hearing it at night. It is a hum, and the sound seems to come right through the walls, so closing windows only helps somewhat. From where I am, it doesn’t seem loud enough to be breaking noise violations, but it is distinctive in sound, and prolonged (unlike train horns).

  • bsmomma September 5, 2012 (1:51 pm)

    That is frustrating that WE have to figure it out before they can do anything. People have been trying to figure it out for years! I say get a digital audio/visual recorder and when we hear the hum, press record jump in the car and drive to LaFarge with the recorder out the window and see if it does in fact get louder. I would love for the hum to stop!!

  • anonyme September 5, 2012 (1:54 pm)

    I was awake from at least 2am – 4am this morning due to this very loud noise. Sounds like the City is dodging the issue as usual. They seriously expect people to get up in the middle of the night, scientific sound equipment readied to track and record the sound, then prove the decibel level from an exact point? Why is the burden on taxpayers to do the job of City inspectors that are paid by taxpayers to do just that – their jobs?

  • Erithan September 5, 2012 (2:02 pm)

    Have heard this noise as well since last thurs/fri about. It not only is annoying, but it actually causes me headaches/ear pain and issues with my vertigo. (The sound when louder tends to fill my ears with a sort of vibrating pressure feel)

    I Currently live in the high point area, a little past the graveyard/new construction.

  • MB September 5, 2012 (2:03 pm)

    I’ve heard it on and off over the last few years. Incredibly annoying!! The hubby has always kinda thought I was crazy, but he’s been hearing it this week as well. I sleep with earplugs because of his snoring and can hear the incesent noise through the snoring and the earplugs. It really really sucks!

  • ian September 5, 2012 (2:09 pm)

    I am a material sciences student, I could be wrong but it sounds like a machining operation. Like a CNC lath or drilling/honing operation. Very creepy to hear on your porch though.

  • Turd Ferguson September 5, 2012 (2:22 pm)

    Ha! I’m very glad you are writing about this. I was just complaining to my neighbors about it on 31st and thistle, and was going to ask WSB. I started hearing it a couple of weeks ago. It was going at 9 last night, and all through the night. It seems like something is spinning, because the noise cycles like it is pointing in the other direction, then back up toward Westwood. I was going to go on an expedition to find it … It has to be really loud where it is coming from!

  • me September 5, 2012 (2:25 pm)

    And you expect a city inspector to come to west seattle after midnight and hang around all night so they can hear a mysterious noise? The problem is most of you epxect the goverment to do everything for you. If the noise bothers you so much, get off your asses, get together and come up with a consensus as to where it is coming from. Submit that info to the city and I am sure they will investigate.

  • biankat September 5, 2012 (2:27 pm)

    She totally captured it. Thank the baby jeebus!

  • ta September 5, 2012 (2:30 pm)

    Thanks for the audio clip! I’ve heard this noise at night off and on for years and never knew what it was! Or if I was imagining things. And we live in Arbor Heights right near 35th and Roxbury. Amazing that we all hear it all over West Seattle!

  • jujumysweet September 5, 2012 (2:36 pm)

    I used to live on Avalon by the Golf Course between 2005-07 and heard a soft roving pitch after midnight all the time. it start up and go for sometimes five minutes and stop or just 30 seconds. it was very annoying once it became part of your life.

  • Anne September 5, 2012 (2:45 pm)

    Haven’t heard this myself this-but there are 32 comments/complaints here-so if everyone calls the number posted above-that may be enough for the city to assign an inspector-so call folks!

  • CP September 5, 2012 (2:46 pm)

    Yup – Julie – that’s it. Just to jump on the noise bandwagon, I have also heard this off and on for years. We’re in the Seaview area so I can only imagine that if it’s coming from East of 35th how annoying it must be in those areas. I can’t hear the lower tone from our house but the higher frequencies definitely make it all the way to 49th!

  • DRW September 5, 2012 (2:46 pm)

    18th & Henderson. Theres a really loud streetlight. It sounds like some kind of compressor. I went out and checked it out last night around 9:30. But there is also the hum or whatever!! Whats weird is it sounds loud inside and when you walk out it seems quieter. I thought I was going crazy. So nice to know there are more crazy people in West Seattle!

  • kate September 5, 2012 (2:47 pm)

    Vashon Island has also had issues with a mysterious hum. KUOW did a story on it few years back:

    • WSB September 5, 2012 (2:50 pm)

      And elsewhere in the world. P.S. I just got a bit more info from DPD; adding to the end of the story – TR

  • Ann September 5, 2012 (2:58 pm)

    Been hearing it the last few nights now, 35th and Othello.

  • Riverview September 5, 2012 (3:00 pm)

    It was incredibly loud and unnerving last night in Riverview, from around midnight until 3-4 a.m. Much louder last night than when Julie made that recording on Sept 3. So relieved that it is not happening today. Not looking forward to hearing the tunnel drilling next year. When they drilled the bus tunnel downtown, we could hear it incessantly from Capitol Hill.

  • Ann September 5, 2012 (3:01 pm)

    I should mention that audio clip is exactly what I’ve been hearing the last few nights. I thought at first I’d left something electronic on in my house and it was buzzing, but I soon discovered it was coming from outside.

  • sam-c September 5, 2012 (3:03 pm)

    DRW is right – it actually is louder when you are inside. it’s hard to figure out where it is coming from if you go outside. aren’t there any ‘sound experts’ in WS that could tell what that means about the noise’s frequency ? I mean the decibels aren’t the issue, it’s the pitch/ frequency, etc.

    (also- is there some cable show that would be able to do a story/ figure it out. I don’t have cable so don’t know, but considering EVERYTHING that is on tv… they have ghost hunters, people that do dirtiest jobs, people that test theories like- do you get sucked out of an airplane window if it breaks… there’s got to be some cable tv show that would be able to solve it)

  • Riverview September 5, 2012 (3:03 pm)

    BTW Tracy, thank you for investigating and posting this story!!! We can always count on your excellent coverage. I sent a complaint last night to and will also call next time.

  • birdgeek September 5, 2012 (3:09 pm)

    hallelujah! I keep trying to blame it on some big tug fighting the tide… all… night… long… brain not so good at 2am. I’ve been relocating to the basement lately, the fan’s not beating it out. WEIRD! We’re in Seaview too: 49th & Dawson. We hear trains too over there… must be crazy-loud on the east side of W. Seattle. Yikes!

  • onceachef September 5, 2012 (3:26 pm)

    Aliens They’re at Boeing for repairs :)

  • biankat September 5, 2012 (3:33 pm)

    Just left a message of my account for the DPD inspector. Everyone else please do the same!

  • jujumysweet September 5, 2012 (3:39 pm)

    I did tell the cops about it back then.

  • Wetone September 5, 2012 (3:42 pm)

    Been hearing it for years. Live a few blocks west of WS junction. Sounds like from Boeing Field area. Large generator, vacuum , wind tunnel ? Runs for long periods of time. Sometimes a few days. Very annoying.

  • Mo September 5, 2012 (3:51 pm)

    I heard it from Delridge and Cambridge. I thought it was a helicopter in the distance, but I never saw anything. Definitely between midnight and 4am.

  • WS resident September 5, 2012 (3:51 pm)

    I also live on the west side of 35th (on 41st) and heard this noise all night. It kept me up and was totally annoying!

  • DPM September 5, 2012 (4:13 pm)

    We live just 2 blocks west of North Shorewood Elementary School and have been hearing it off and on at 5am for a couple of years or more!

  • Uncle Fred September 5, 2012 (4:26 pm)

    Also heard it late the other night in Seaview. After listening to the clip, the parking lot sweeper truck idea seems plausible. Is there any sort of wind tunnel at Boeing Field?

  • born, raised, & still in ws September 5, 2012 (4:33 pm)

    My husband and I have heard it for multiple nights and we are at 35th and Roxbury. Weird humming, gets louder, gets quieter, stops. Does it over and over and we also can only here it after midnight. Is the noise there during the day? With the traffic on 35th there is no way to tell. Glad to know it is not just us and that we are not crazy (well, at least for hearing this.) Is it just me, or does it seem that it only occurs in the latter summer months as well? I don’t recall hearing it any other season, any other time of the year and until it dips below 40 degrees, he keeps the window slightly open for airflow. Hopefully the mystery will be solved soon so we can all sleep again!

  • buddsmom September 5, 2012 (4:35 pm)

    Heard it in Arbor Heights too. Sounds like the hum in Colorado, August,2011 just prior to an earthquake.

  • ben September 5, 2012 (4:40 pm)

    Heard it last night after midnight (early morning 9/5/12 from Burien. Near 509 at 116th. More noticable inside, probably due to the wavelength and street noise being present outside.
    Seems to change pitch/intensity in a slow rolling pattern, makes me wonder if we’re hearing an interference pattern between multiple sources.
    This needs a coordinated effort of recording at different locations at the same time to estimate a source location.

  • WSratsinacage September 5, 2012 (5:16 pm)

    That is a spooky sound. Glad I can’t hear it at my house.

  • west seattle newbie September 5, 2012 (5:18 pm)

    I too have been hearing this the last few nights. I keep thinking it is construction equipment or semi-trucks idling outside on the street, get up to check and of course there is nothing there. Go back to bed, keep hearing it, get up, nothing there. Am close to 35th and Avalon.

  • Dick September 5, 2012 (5:31 pm)

    I will add my $.02. A few months back I woke in the middle of the night and heard some hum. Thought it was the neighbors hvac. Wife thought I was nuts. I hear it most times of day from in my house, outside at nights. Thought my hearing was going from years of abuse or it was brain cancer or something bad. Definitely sounds more prominent from different parts of the house, but very certain it’s not coming from in the house. Thought about going to the Dr. Thank you for writing about this. I’m down at 26th SW and SW 104.

  • Tobias September 5, 2012 (5:36 pm)

    Heard it in Arbor Heights this am as well. between 3:30 and 4. Thought is was a train in the distance..

  • John Commeree September 5, 2012 (5:38 pm)

    Sound familiar?

    Also read that the loudness and pitch of the hum generated by an induction furnace varies with the size of the load and the temperature of the melting steel. My induction range makes a similar albeit higher pitched hum that varies with the power setting

    Not saying that Nucor is definitely the source but it was the first thought I had the other night when I heard it – after I ruled out a passing freighter – and aliens – either that or some darned big transformers under load

  • lp3 September 5, 2012 (5:43 pm)

    This has kept me awake also, most recently Monday night into Tuesday morning near Fairmount park. Finally had to close all the windows, and kept them shut last night to avoid it. Such a loud/weird sound/vibration. I’ve at times thought it was the train engines running, but I don’t think so anymore. So many people in such a large area are bothered by this. I do think it is something industrial, I’m going to call DPD too.

  • Kay K September 5, 2012 (5:50 pm)

    We did drive down a couple of nights ago to try and find it and we thought it might be coming from a ship that was moored off the Northland pier on the Duwamish. Like they were running a huge generator or pumping stuff out of the hold? It had a B on the smokestack and a bunch of cranes on it. We did drive further north toward the cement plant, but it seemed quieter there.

    What someone said about frequency is key I think, it must be a very long sound wave to travel all the way to Burien and Westwood. A professional sound expert is needed.

  • seattletimebandit September 5, 2012 (6:01 pm)

    We’ve been hearing it on the west side of the hill in Gatewood for over a week now. Very similar to the sound we reported in comments on WSB back in 2009 when we lived on Barton Street west of 35th. Very annoying. We did hear it each night during Labor Day weekend, so I ruled out any overnight AWV/SSV construction. Back in ’09 we thought maybe it was parking lot cleaning at Westwood Village (creating the doppler effect from the machine going back and forth), but seeing that Lafarge was operating all weekend…maybe…just maybe…

    btw: the recording is spot on!

  • Stephen September 5, 2012 (6:03 pm)

    I’m so glad this article was written. My wife and I moved into our home on 16th Ave SW and SW Brandon St three months ago (we are as close to Lafarge as anybody in west Seattle). We hear this noise every night! Its quite consistent and must be coming from some type of industrial operation down on marginal way. I’m really surprised that so many others in west Seattle hear it as well. I will call the number tomorrow to make a formal complaint. I’ll try to get a police officer out to do a decible reading from our backyard.


  • smokeycretin9 September 5, 2012 (6:07 pm)

    Good.. my evil behavior modification ray is working. Mwhahahahahah

  • old timer September 5, 2012 (6:13 pm)

    Thanks WSB,
    This is not the same hum I’ve noticed in the past.
    The old hum seemed to be during daylight hours and seemed to come in from the West.
    This new one, appeared a couple nights ago, is much louder, much more annoying, and does not seem to start until after 11:00 P.M. or so. It also seems to rise and fall in intensity. Finally, it most definitely comes from somewhere Northeast.
    Is there any night work being done on the 99 viaduct or the Spokane project?

  • andy September 5, 2012 (6:15 pm)

    let’s plot the noise reports on a map(like the coyote sightings)and see if that can help narrow it down. it sounds like this noise is doing some atmospheric acrobatics to be heard over such a wide area and not be easily traced.

  • momof2 September 5, 2012 (6:31 pm)

    Listening to the clip is kind of creepy…and I have heard it from our house at 16th and Orchard…as well as during the day up at the community college. Do the City of Seattle officials, eg. the mayor, etc., know about it?

  • me on 28th Ave SW September 5, 2012 (6:45 pm)

    This is EXACTLY the noise I heard earlier in the year when the topic came up on WSB. I live on 28th and Thistle, and I remember it was at night. I heard it a few days in a row and it went on for hours. At the time I likened it to a huge oscillating fan due to the cyclic variation in tone.

  • curious September 5, 2012 (6:57 pm)

    thanks for the jokes, cjp, onceachef and smokeycretin. there are as inane as the ‘jokes’ my 4 year old tries to tell

  • steph September 5, 2012 (7:01 pm)

    Super weird. I grew up just west of steel mill and it never sounded like that. The steel mill sounds became more of a white noise. When I moved I had to adjust to no background sound. However, if that clip is true to sound, it almost sounds more electrical. Reminds me of a didgeridoo…must be annoying.

  • Patrick September 5, 2012 (7:08 pm)

    Perhaps it is the Music of the Spheres.

  • westseattledood September 5, 2012 (7:44 pm)

    Lafarge North America, on West Marginal, is the only manufacturing company on that strip for two miles to the south Everything else is cargo, shipping and containers. Two companies north of the epicenter of the loud grinding noise (it is not a hum from the greenbelt, believe me) are Greyline and Ferguson’s Bathroom Fixture. When I posted on the forums about where I heard the source, I did so with that information.

    People at the city (noise inspectors) might want ti look at a dang map. Even across the river at that area, there are only a handful of companies. How hard can it be?

  • trickycoolj September 5, 2012 (8:00 pm)

    Maybe it’s the Langoliers!

  • raincity September 5, 2012 (8:01 pm)

    We hear it at 51st and Hudson. It’s creepy and very annoying.

  • Gabby September 5, 2012 (8:15 pm)

    I’ve heard it just twice in the past week, both times around 10pm while falling asleep. I use a fan to drown it out. I’ve heard it in the past, too. Every time I do I think its a copter search going on, but it doesn’t let up.

    As wonderful as it would be to get to the bottom of this, it could be from as far away as Vashon Island to the west or South Park to the east, so it won’t be easy. I’m at the top of Gatewood and we hear boats, trains, even freeway noise. Seems like a lot of us that hear THE HUM live up high on West Seattle’s ridge.

    • WSB September 5, 2012 (8:19 pm)

      P.S. For anyone interested – at least as of early this evening, our friends at KING 5 were picking up this story – so keep an eye out if you watch late-night TV news. (Always a chance breaking news could get in the way, though.) – TR

  • greg September 5, 2012 (8:24 pm)

    Interesting that the DPD says it would have to be 150db to travel that far. We frequently hear locomotive engines at night, up in Highland Park, and they are definately not 150db

  • JayDee September 5, 2012 (8:35 pm)

    I am not a noise engineer. I spent some time on a plane and the clip, albeit brief, sounds like a “beat frequency” between two noise sources that are not quite in sync. If anyone else can record this sound they should.

    Typically when both engines on a twin engined plane are set to the same idle speed they aren’t quite…but the difference is often perceived as waah…wah..wa.wa.wa.wa..wa…wah…waah and then dying away…if you are close to one or the other noise source you wouldn’t hear it. But like a pilot in a cockpit equidistant between engines or someone further away, the sound would have that quality. More noise samples cannot hurt. That is my two cents for now.

  • Kathleen September 5, 2012 (9:01 pm)

    Sound can be very unpredictable. I used to live over 5 miles from an airport. Most of the time I couldn’t hear anything. Given certain temperatures and air conditions, it sounded like the jets were outside my building when they were warming up. I can hear every word people say in the front yard of a house that’s clear at the other end of the block. I understand the tide can effect how much a sound reverberates.

  • ttt September 5, 2012 (9:08 pm)

    We definitely hear the “hum” after midnight West of the junction. It sounds like dumptrucks and big equipment moving around on most nights and sometimes like trains. When we first moved here it made me think there were train tracks somewhere on the west side of west seattle that I just hadn’t found out about yet. My friends on Vashon Isle hear the mysterious “hum” too (I heard about a hum from them before we even moved to W Seattle).
    I really think it is the industrial area and port activity (they work at night too, right?) and then it echoes across our waterways in the Elliot Bay area, resonating out, bouncing back and forth between landmasses. I also wonder if it is from the A/C fan units in those freight containers in the port area– they all seem to have a fan system on them. It is annoying. If you go down to Jack Block Park during the day and stand out on the farthest East structure/bridge you will hear the same sound.

  • Gina September 5, 2012 (9:09 pm)

    Listened to clip. I have heard that noise. Always thought it was tugboat or tanker reverberation.

  • Siren September 5, 2012 (9:09 pm)

    Is it possible that the nose is from them digging the tunnel in Seattle? The vibrations could be being amplified via the water between us?

    I don’t know for sure but it drives my husband nutty! He keeps calling the police to complain but they couldn’t tell him anything.

    We are on 21st SW near Sanislo Elementary

  • AJP September 5, 2012 (9:12 pm)

    I live at 12th and Cambridge in Highland Park. I’ve never heard this noise, windows open or shut, in the last 4 years that I’ve lived here. Heard planes and sometimes trains, but not this. Weird.

  • alexandrinew September 5, 2012 (9:14 pm)

    It is Lafarge. At 8:30 PM this evening, my boyfriend and I drove by (5400 W Marginal Way) and recorded a bit of the noise. There are two distinct frequencies when close to the site you can hear the louder tones, but the underlying tones are the ones I believe we can hear, and feel, all over West Seattle. I began hearing this sound on a nightly basis for well more than a week, but I can hear it during the day time as well when I am at home.

    It’s driving me nuts! I am sending the file to the City and WSB.

  • Cheryl September 5, 2012 (9:14 pm)

    Was on my front porch last night around 11:30pm and heard the “humming” too (Fauntlee Hills; approx 41st and Barton). The source and direction of the sound was hard to nail down, it definitely fluxuated in intensity & decibels. Sounds spot on like the recording submitted above. Have heard it before (early morning, late at night), but I’m rarely out & about after 9pm so most of the time I don’t hear it during the evening. Fascinating either way & I’m so glad to know I’m not insane or hearing things. Thanks WSB!

  • David September 5, 2012 (9:24 pm)

    We’ve been hearing it at 29th & Kenyon. I’m hoping the City will take the list that’s been developed here and send out an inspector to trace it down. Clearly, we can hear it all over West Seattle.

  • Elise September 5, 2012 (9:24 pm)

    We have heard it at 36th and Brandon for the last 3 nights. We shut the windows and can still hear it. Very annoying. I will report it to the powers that be. I would love it if it were Aliens getting repairs at Boeing!!

  • smokeycretin9 September 5, 2012 (9:25 pm)


  • West Seattle Wanderer September 5, 2012 (9:28 pm)

    Yes! Finally, an answer. Well, almost. At least I’m not crazy. Been hearing this on 37th and Dakota on and off for some time.

  • tp September 5, 2012 (9:31 pm)

    Now that I listened to the clip I recognize the sound. We’re here at 37th and Genessee and I always thought it was coming from the water. Any possibility that it could be the cranes unloading containers? Maybe during the day the street noise would block it? And wouldn’t sound traveling over water go farther? Totally guessing. I learned to tune this out. BUT, what I wouldn’t do to make the garbage trucks or whatever it is come later than like 4 or 5 am….dang that is really loud and annoying in this area.

  • jeff September 5, 2012 (9:45 pm)

    this sounds just like the Star Gate sequence in 2001: A Space Odyssey

  • Gitter September 5, 2012 (9:53 pm)

    I hear it and I’m on Genessee Ridge, approximately 51st and Alaska. I too thought it might be tow boats . . . But it never stops.

  • datamuse September 5, 2012 (9:55 pm)

    This is incredibly weird, because I live at the top of Highland Park Way, and so you’d think based on the description and direction I’d hear it louder than anyone. But I don’t. I have no idea what you all are talking about. Don’t get me wrong, I have no doubt there’s SOMETHING, but I’ve NEVER heard it.
    Now, if it’s really late…well…I often sleep with earplugs in because the husband snores…but I’m also often up past midnight. All I hear is trains and traffic.

  • turd ferguson September 5, 2012 (10:05 pm)

    I finally listened to the audio clip. That’s what was hearing at 31st and Thistle. It’s interesting because if a plane or traffic goes by you can’t hear it, but otherwise it is very loud. Reading the past stories, I can’t believe that it can’t be located. I guess sound waves are more complicated than I, a person with no experience with sound technology or behavior, can decipher, so yes, I am relying on the ***scary organ*** GOVERNMENT (oh wait I pay taxes so that’s OK).

  • Kelly September 5, 2012 (10:18 pm)

    Fascinating. We were so spooked by the sound (Saturday or Sunday night?) we went outside to look around. We’re at 32nd and Thistle and it was only audible on one side of the house (towards the Duwamish), but very distinct indoors with the windows open. We thought it sounded like a harmonic vibration. Or aliens. Or some kind of local Loch Ness monster in heat. Probably aliens.

  • Conspire September 5, 2012 (10:19 pm)

    It’s the Navy digging high speed tunnels under the city.

  • jujumysweet September 5, 2012 (10:21 pm)

    Listening to the clip it sounds like a conch shell or wind instrument of some sort..

  • Alex Sargeant September 5, 2012 (10:41 pm)

    Has anyone talked to the Duwamish People about this? It’s probably just the lightning serpent that lives just south of the Fauntleroy Ferry dock. It was here long before the white man.

  • Morgan junction September 5, 2012 (10:45 pm)

    I just moved to the Morgan Junction and thought I was going crazy last night when I heard this noise–exactly like in the recording, and loud! I went outside to look around and assumed it must be a transformer, but it was so strange the way it came and went, and it was so low and ominous sounding. I hope they find it and make it stop!

  • dsa September 5, 2012 (11:07 pm)

    I shouldn’t tell you this, but I used to investigate noise complaints. I remember some of it.
    Long waves travel the best, those are the ones you hear from the amped up car next to you. So I was expecting to hear a deep rumble on the clip. But I didn’t on my computer. So if those sounds are of a high frequency (tone) it definitely needs to be a loud source and should be easy to find.
    That said, sound always seems to travel better at night, be it the still air or still everything else. What is definitely an annoyance at 2 am is likely not noticed at 2 pm. It’s just that way. The other thing is that the 40-45 dBA is actually a too high of a threshold for many of us. I used one of the offices meters outside at home one night and it didn’t register. The sound level was below the meter’s starting scale.
    I think a long time ago the city revised the code to include nuisance type noise which this likely is so the dBA probably isn’t critical.

  • Brian September 5, 2012 (11:20 pm)

    lafarge is responsible. What you have to keep in mind is that they will stop the process that is creating the noise now and then. In addition, when clouds move in and the system becomes low pressure the sound during those times will be nearly non existent.

    I shot a video last night at lafarge that has the exact same sound that we hear from our house.

  • Brian September 5, 2012 (11:27 pm)

    Don’t wear ear plugs when you sleep! You are putting yourself in danger by not being able to hear an intruder or your fire alarm.

  • EJ September 5, 2012 (11:36 pm)

    Now I can’t sleep because I keep wondering if I’m going to hear this annoying & unusual sound tonight! I think I’ve heard it once before… If it’s aliens, we should have another round of block parties.

  • JCL September 6, 2012 (12:41 am)

    To me the recording sounded like the police helicopters that fly around White Center at night. Took me forever to figure it out because the chopper wasn’t visible at first.(if I was out front, it would have just flown behind the house)The difference in pitch would be determined by whether the chopper was flying towards you or away from you. Might be too obvious a solution, but the recording sounded just like the choppers.

  • Kaje September 6, 2012 (1:38 am)

    It’s underground drilling/excavating, which is why it’s louder inside (the vibrations will travel through the building foundations and be amplified inside the property).

    Perhaps the city is building something underground that we’re not supposed to know about?

  • lisa September 6, 2012 (3:34 am)

    Having lived on Vashon for over 7 yrs, I can tell you all that you are not alone. We have been hearing this “hum” for years now, not only at night. As someone mentioned, there was a write up about it in the news. It is very strange. I also used to hear a train, which.always creeped me out, as there are no trains on Vashon. I lived on the northeast side.

  • Toby Getsch September 6, 2012 (4:17 am)

    I live near Lowman Beach Park. I’ve often been woken up by something between 2 and about 3:30 am. Sometimes I’ve been kept up a bit more and didn’t think much of it other than it was a bad night sleeping. It happened tonight and I just got up and started putzing around on Facebook when I came across the WSB post from a few hours ago, about “the hum.” I haven’t noticed it as loud as the clip, and never thought too much of it, until now. While reading through the comments here on this post — the sound stopped at 3:51 am (9/6). FWIW, I think it’s Boeing and some stealth helicopters, which would explain why we don’t see them around. Or, maybe it’s just ferry boat noises that can carry quite a ways. (I don’t think anyone on here has commented about ferry boat noise as a possibility. Just a thought there.) Or, maybe it’s… … I don’t know. I think half of me wants to keep coming up with conspiracy theories and the other half of me just wants to go to sleep. It did stop at 3:51 am this morning and now it feels VERY quiet. There is a noticeable difference. I’m inside my house with the windows closed and the bedroom fan is on, while I’m sitting in the living room. Oh, and it’s not the laptop fan. I know that for sure because this thing is hot and that fan is not working. :)

  • Heroslive September 6, 2012 (5:15 am)

    If you You Tube strange noises you can see that all over the world, this same noise or variations of the noise, are heard. There is a great theory of an electro magnetic disturbance, much like tryin to stick two magnets together the wrong way, you can’t hear that sound; but amplified a few million times and it does make a similar noise. This sound is usually elude to the northern lights or shif in tectonic plates caused by earthquakes. Do you feel dizzy at the same time the sound? This could further narrow the disposition in electro magnetic fields

  • Ray West September 6, 2012 (5:23 am)

    I thought I was imagining this until I read about it on the blog. I’m close to the Morgan Junction, so it’s not that loud from where I’m at, but it sure is annoying. I’m not as concerned about the noise level as I am about what is causing it. If no one, including the city, knows for sure what it is, you have to wonder if there’s some questionable activity tied to it. If it’s caused by LaFarge have they responded publicly?

  • gooberdog September 6, 2012 (6:01 am)

    I’ve heard this before – or at least something very like it – from my house in Arbor Heights and traced it to parking lot maintenence at Roxbury Safeway. Sweeper/vaccume trucks – very noisy. Noise level ebbs and flows just like the audio clip depending on what direction they’re driving over the parking lot. They only work at night, obviously, when the lots are empty. I am sure all the other groceries, etc. in the area have similar maintenence…

  • K September 6, 2012 (6:12 am)

    It is really loud in my neighborhood, HPView. So loud that we have been closing our windows during the day. And yes we heard it on Labor Day. And not yesterday. It usually starts around 6:00, 6:30 and goes until I fall asleep. On Labor Day it started at 1:00. I will call the complaint line at some point today.

  • Shawn September 6, 2012 (7:49 am)

    I live near Highland Park Way and SW Holden (at the top of the hill) and have been hearing this hum for years now, off and on. I notice it more in the winter months, but this summer it has been a lot more frequent. The very slow fluctuation of intensity is the biggest way to describe it.
    I had previously assumed it was coming from the Waste Management facility near the bottom of the hill, but looking at a map there is no way it is coming from that direction. It is pretty much directly north of me. This points back at the LaFarge plant.
    However, my wife pointed out this morning that the much larger Ash Grove plant is also directly north of us and is a lot more active.

  • BobRiversIntern September 6, 2012 (7:52 am)

    Hey guys! Intern at the Bob Rivers Show on KJR FM 95.7 and we’ve discussed this topic on the show. You can check out our website around noon today for our podcast where we go over into some detail about the noise. We have had some callers call in and let us know their best guesses as to what the noise is! They are as follows:

    -A Parking lot cleaner
    -Frog Fish mating
    -Exhaust fans of local plants
    -Other animals and mechanical equipment

    Tune into our website again around noon where you will be able to listen to the full podcast and here the show discuss this topic!

  • Bob September 6, 2012 (7:53 am)

    I have read over the last couple of years of unexplained noises from all across the world. Here is a site that I brought up on a google search -
    Having only heard the one 30 second clip I don’t have a good “feel” for the sound. In the link above there is a recording from mexico city that sounds similar. I’m not one of those tin hat wearing conspiracy people, but do spend time reading about the strange anomalies around the world. I’d be interested in what those that have been hearing the sounds think about the other sound recordings from around the world. Gotta love a mystery. One last thing…if you were to cup your ears and turn your head…can a direction be determined…or does it appear to be coming from everywhere?

  • Roger September 6, 2012 (7:55 am)

    I used to live on Nevada Street in 2005 and moved because of the noise. It was causing health issues for me as I could not sleep at night. I contacted the Steel Mill but they said it was not them. Best way to describe the noise is like the sound of a tuning fork. Vibrating sound very high pitch. I moved farther south up near pigeon hill and do not hear the noise at all anymore. I hope they find the cause of this but honestly industry these days trumps us individuals. You know they are classified as a person now. You can’t tell me the city officials don’t already know what the cause is. Probably will cost whatever industry creating the noise too much money to fix. So a few citizens get sick or have to move so what. This has been going on since at least 2004. Good luck to those of you that are suffering I get it. I tolerated it a year and then I had to move.

  • jujumysweet September 6, 2012 (8:10 am)

    A lot of cranky people due to loss of sleep nowdays in W.S…lol

  • J September 6, 2012 (8:49 am)

    we live over off california near graham st. we have heard it for a couple weeks now. it is really creepy, especially when it gets louder and than goes away. we live on top of a few businesses, so i was thinking it was something coming from below our place. i thought our apartment building was gonna blow up from how loud it was getting.

  • Seattle dweller September 6, 2012 (9:28 am)

    I have lived in West Seattle for over 15 years and isn’t this the nature of the beast? We don’t live in the country, we live next to a port, there are airports close, and YES, businesses make noise.
    With all these supersonic hearing, one would think there would be more listening, more dialogue about finding the source and not creating a witch hunt. Just blaming random businesses isn’t going to solve the problem. (There are those folks who like to complain and watch others do the work, it’s inevitable and they are not the audience to which i type to) With all the political buzz flying around, some of the comments on this post remind me of the politicians that spew ‘truth’ because it’s what they think…therefore it must be right!?!
    The bottom line is- there will always be a low hum of white noise in the city. Put on some classical music or an interesting podcast to lull you to sleep until the cause(s) are discovered.

    Sweet dreams my light sleeping neighbors.

  • Ben September 6, 2012 (9:37 am)

    Plotted most cross streets mentioned so far.

    Add your plot point if you wish.

    • WSB September 6, 2012 (9:42 am)

      Thanks, Ben. I thought the G-map was a great idea but didn’t have the bandwidth to initiate it myself … If you can, consider crossposting to the Forum thread? We can showcase it on the main page later today – I plan to follow up with the DPD. – TR

  • patt September 6, 2012 (9:39 am)

    I heard the same sound when I lived below grade downtown. Thought it was cars and trucks on the Blanchard St. tunnel.

    Could be different layers of West Seattle Hill rubbing together in the very small earthquakes storms we get around here.

    Or a kind of concentration of city sounds on a more acoustic strata of earth.

    The new Seattle sound?

  • Shawn September 6, 2012 (10:06 am)

    I added my information to the map. I wish people who do the same would include a compass direction report of where they hear the sound. Let’s triangulate this thing!

  • bvm September 6, 2012 (10:09 am)

    Ok, Posted link in general discussion on the forum.

  • dawgtired in WS September 6, 2012 (10:11 am)

    Maybe a long shot guess but I wonder if it is connected to the changes coming in the flightpath for Seatac Airport by the FAA. They are going to shorten the landing flightpath from North Seattle to Alki Point. They will continue to go over Vashon Island. I live in the Highland Park Area and I can see and hear the planes taking off from the third runway. For the last 5 weeks or so, I have never seen so many planes veer from the flightpath and head for Alki Point. I have never seen this in the past. In the wee hours of the morning the planes are all over West Seattle. Maybe the FAA has hidden some sort of monitering system,that emits a sound,in West Seattle ? The FAA has a Seatac Airport noise complaint form online.

    • WSB September 6, 2012 (10:20 am)

      Re: the flight-path proposal – see today’s daily preview (just published atop the page) – anyone interested in that might want to go to tonight’s open house/presentation in Ballard. They are not currently scheduling any meetings in West Seattle.

  • sam-c September 6, 2012 (10:12 am)

    thanks for setting up that map- that is really cool. is there a way that people could add dates and times it was heard?

  • AH September 6, 2012 (10:26 am)

    I live in Arbor Heights by the school and thought I heard it last night at 3:30-4:00 It’s quite loud and none of the doors or windows were open.

  • Maria September 6, 2012 (10:26 am)

    Between Barton and 17th
    It has been a week since I noticed the notice.
    Can’t sleep in a 3er floor and I hear the dam thing.
    What ^**()*_)*^ is it?
    Who in the world is doing what and why at that time? Who will tell what is really going on?
    Will love to know and most of all to be STOPED.

  • Duck Duck Gray Duck September 6, 2012 (10:53 am)

    This phenomenon has surfaced in many parts of the U.S. and world. Wrote about it here.

    More audio can be heard. Something odd is happening.

  • Matt Rosin September 6, 2012 (10:59 am)

    How about someone makes an android app that records and uploads intensity, gps location and timestamp? Then you guys can triangulate it.

    I’m no expert and it might be something freaky like electrical wires vibrating from magnetic induction or subterranean conduction, who knows but with enough people using the app even such sources can be identified. The timestamp will help distant factories see if they are the culprits.

  • rd September 6, 2012 (11:01 am)

    I hear this in South Colby from time to time. I just figured it was marine traffic. Strange noise however . . .

  • Eric September 6, 2012 (11:04 am)


    I’m a acoustic engineer, but not local. You need to find the acoustic “fingerprint” of the sound. A 1/3 octave band noise meter should be able to determine what the primary frequency of the hum (hums tend to be right around a single frequency). Once you have that you can narrow down both distance and origin to a point. Low frequencies and infrasound (under 20hz) can travel miles and miles because the wavelength is so long. In addition, based on what people have mentioned (closing windows and doors doesnt do much), I suspect it a low frequency nose probably between 15-200 hz. There are a couple acoustical engineering firms in Seattle that could probably find out the source.

  • Miles September 6, 2012 (12:02 pm)

    After watching the video link provided by “Duck Duck Gray Duck”, I’m leaning toward this being an elaborate hoax. The sounds in those video clips are very obviously synthesizers dubbed into the videos. I’m not saying you people aren’t hearing something, but I don’t think that video is legit.

  • Jennifer September 6, 2012 (12:30 pm)

    I have been hearing this noise at night off and on for a few weeks. At first I thought our neighbors had installed a new industrial air conditioner or something, but it sometimes gets way too loud for it to be that. I had been thinking it must be something industrial at the port or a nearby plant. I can usually ignore it and is kind of a soothing white noise to sleep to, but it has been pretty loud at times. I live near 16th and Webster.

  • David Voy September 6, 2012 (12:32 pm)

    I ran this through an audio app called Audacity. and visialized the HUM Noise using Spectrogram. I uploaded a video to my YouTube , i need to add a better quality video soon.

    View the HUM Noise from the blog here.

    I will do more soon.

  • ericgoetz September 6, 2012 (12:32 pm)

    Eric, it’s actually above 200 hz, and if you listen there’s an strong overtone 2 octaves above the fundamental. Attaching a graph of the soundfile in question, via Audition.

  • Christopher September 6, 2012 (12:33 pm)

    It’s Parking Lot Vacuum Trucks. Had the same problem in Kent and went to investigate. It was a vacuum truck cleaning the local business park. It can be heard all over the area because they WORK all over the area. The vibration is a big part of the problem. That’s why it seems to come through the walls and windows.
    Once I identified it, I was able to ignore it.

  • Titten Tat September 6, 2012 (12:34 pm)

    The late night noise got much worse this year after additions/changes were made to the transformer station on the corner of 26th–just down the hill from High Point. It is unbelievably irritating when one is trying to sleep.

  • vraxvalhalla September 6, 2012 (12:46 pm)

    35th and Morgan here. Heard it Monday and Tuesday nights, from about midnite on. The audio clip posted by WSB is spot on. I very much doubt it is train or other vehicle. It sounds mechanical or electrical.
    Very irritating, as I’ve been losing sleep even with the doors closed. I cannot pinpoint the source, but it seems to me that it’s emanating from the Delridge/Duwamish direction.

  • Terry Taylor September 6, 2012 (1:04 pm)

    Someone asked if Boeing had a wind tunnel…having grown up on Beacon Hill due west of Boeing Field I can tell you for a fact that yes – they certainly did at one time and it was incredibly loud. Louder than you can imagine being allowable in a major metropolitan city. It’s a roar. I don’t know if it is still in operation. I do recall that there were a variety of very loud sounds emanating from Boeing Field through the years – engine turbines whining up and down, etc. – and guess what? This was always at night. I would not be surprised if this mysterious hum was emanating from Boeing Field.

  • hummmmm September 6, 2012 (1:09 pm)

    I am so happy to see this (because I thought it was just our neighborhood)…I have been going crazy at 12th and SW Orchard St. trying to figure out which direction that hum is coming from…I really thought it was a neighbor’s air conditioner. I know for sure I heard it last year about this time as well (maybe just because the windows are open this time of year). It’s weird that it’s very widespread all over West Seattle.

  • Jason September 6, 2012 (1:16 pm)
    Very interesting video!!!

    • WSB September 6, 2012 (1:22 pm)

      By the time you get late into that clip it sounds like the same thing dubbed in – the ambient bird/forest/whatever sound with the bleak urban apartment buildings just doesn’t seem to fit. But as a trained skeptic … will keep an open mind.

  • LL September 6, 2012 (1:26 pm)

    We live in the Belvedere neighborhood and always thought it was the steel plant below. When we first moved in, the first time we heard it we thought it was similar to the sound of the aliens in War of the Worlds (New version) I can sometimes actually hear someone over a loud speaker too. So it is an active business just not positive which one.

  • Shawn September 6, 2012 (1:30 pm)

    Nothing in THAT video sounds like what I am hearing in West Seattle. I am like others and assumed it was a neighbor’s generator or A/C the first time I heard it. Next time I hear it I am going to see if I can track down the source. I won’t be surprised if I send up outside the LaFarge plant.

  • JM September 6, 2012 (1:54 pm)

    This is like that “Horton Hears a Who” book from Dr. Seuss. Maybe it’s the Whos in Whoville who are responsible for the noise. :)!

  • Ben September 6, 2012 (2:13 pm)

    On August 13, 2011 around 2:20 AM my wife and I woke up due to a loud high-pitched tone. It was so loud I thought it was coming from inside the house but by the time I got out of bed it stopped.
    It also happened again in the middle of the night several months later but I did not record the date.
    We live across the street from Highland Park Elementary School, also close to the West Seattle Reservoir.
    I have not heard this sound recently.

  • Bryan Hollister September 6, 2012 (3:26 pm)

    I have followed that sound in the past: If you stand in Riverview Park you can tell definitively that the sound is coming from somewhere in the area east of the Duwamish River, north of Georgetown and south of S. Spokane St.

  • Tommy September 6, 2012 (3:40 pm)

    Reply to Titten Tat: I live 5 houses from the transformers on 26th near High Point, and I don’t hear this at night. Maybe I just need to pay more attention?

  • Bryan Torres September 6, 2012 (4:33 pm)

    Hey everyone, I’m an audio engineer from Central Florida and i am amazed at this situation. It seems that the sound is a feedback of some sort. I’m trying to run the sound through a spectrum analyzer and EQ multimeter but the recordings quality isnt helping much. All of my colleagues from our studio are very interested in helping figure this out. Does anyone have access to studio recording equipment? If someone can help us with a higher quality recording, we can run an analysis and share the results. Please email me at if anyone has any tips or other audio recordings. Thank you.

  • Lesley September 6, 2012 (5:02 pm)

    This sound is from electricity running thru the street wires!!!!

  • Tony September 6, 2012 (5:13 pm)

    I can hear this in Seaview as well. As per a couple of earlier comments above I also think it very much resembles a beat frequency produced by an interference pattern of more than one sound wave. I used to experience this on a regular basis whenever the neighbors across the street would run a shop vac. We finally discovered that the beat frequency (i.e high pitched humm) was caused by the interaction of the vacuum’s high frequency sound waves and our metal balcony railing – just like a pitch fork!

  • Wetone September 6, 2012 (5:24 pm)

    REPTILIANS there here under us and getting ready to come out and feast !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • WestSeattleRocks September 6, 2012 (5:31 pm)

    The sound in the recording is exactly what we have heard from our bedroom window intermittently since moving into this house 3 years ago. It is more apparent when the wind is blowing from east to west. We live near C&P coffee, but are on the top of a hill with a two story home. The sound comes from the east and is most audible from our east-facing bedroom. People who face west and are on the downslope of a hill will likely not hear this. It is only audible for us at night when we and the rest of the world are more quiet, and we are in our bedroom facing east. I’m sure those who live closer to the source are hearing it much more. This is not made up. My husband and I comment on it regularly. Thank you for checking it out!

    • WSB September 6, 2012 (5:44 pm)

      We’ll have a followup later tonight – checked in with the city this afternoon. Thanks to everybody for sharing their stories.

  • K2 September 6, 2012 (5:50 pm)

    I’m so glad WSB posted this article! My husband and I moved to our house on SW 107th & 39th SW about four months ago. Wednesday morning at about 3:30 we were awoken by this exact sound. This is the first time either of us has heard anything quite like it; low, resonating, and fluctuating in volume, as though it’s getting closer then farther away. It was very ominous and unsettling. If the sound itself didn’t make it hard enough to go back to sleep, thinking about it certainly did. The first thing I thought of was a large boat, since the water is in close proximity, but we’ve never hear any other boat noises before. Then I thought maybe a small prop plane making low passes overhead, but then I’ve neve heard that here before either.

    We lived on North Delridge for the last 5yrs prior to moving to Arbor Heights. We heard a variety of sounds from Nucor, some odd and late-night, but nothing this loud, long lasting, or fluctuating. We actually went on a tour or the plant last summer and the explanation of the noise was all perfectly logical and aligned with what we expected. They also (of course) made a point o highlighting all of the steps they’ve taken to mitigate noise and other pollution. Though I realize they give the tours to give their pitch to a captive audience in an effort to win over the hearts and minds of the neighbors, I went very skeptical and scrutinizing and left satisfied by their answers and efforts. They do well to be considerate neighbors. In short, that noise was (almost) definitely not from Nucor.

  • BB September 6, 2012 (6:35 pm)

    KING5 saying it could be FISH!?! really?

  • Hummdinger September 6, 2012 (6:53 pm)

    This isn’t just West Seattle or Washington State for that matter. And it isn’t power lines or cars/planes/trains.

  • David nix September 6, 2012 (7:04 pm)

    It sounds like the fan on a blimp. There is a zeppelin in West Seattle. The sound can’t be pinned down because low frequencies radiate well. I live in south Florida and at night when it’s quiet can hear trains that are minimum of 5 miles away and on the other side of a raised toll road.

  • EJ September 6, 2012 (7:05 pm)

    Fish mating call… Really?! That’s what King 5 is reporting it might be. Weird!!

    • WSB September 6, 2012 (7:32 pm)

      There are a lot of “it might’s.” I think someone brought that up earlier in this thread (or the forum), but they were planning to talk with a professor about it tonight – should be in their story, which we will link from our update later tonight. – TR

  • WSB September 6, 2012 (7:50 pm)

    P.S. I believe the fish suggestion came from this story:
    I can’t listen to the clip because I’m covering a meeting right now, and don’t have earbuds handy. But someone listen and see if it sounds like it could be! – TR

  • westseattledood September 6, 2012 (7:57 pm)

    With all due respect to those who have a clue, what I heard on Labor Day above the cement plant was not frogs, mating or otherwise.



    btw, yesterday the Dood and I got buzzed three times over at the dog park by an unmarked white and blue helicopter – except for a familiar-looking strawberry blond head sticking out ;) I’d never have suspected King5! ;)

  • West Seattle person September 6, 2012 (8:17 pm)

    I always assumed t was the steel pant.

    However, the recording of the fish sure does sound a lot like that hum.

  • mmd September 6, 2012 (8:27 pm)

    I’m familiar with this noise too and think it is coming from the sewers. Next time you hear it go to a storm drain and see if it is louder.

  • DonHP September 6, 2012 (8:39 pm)

    ……in case anyone has any doubts.

  • MDS September 6, 2012 (8:42 pm)

    What about Ashgrove? That’s right off the WS freeway.

  • WestSeattleRocks September 6, 2012 (8:46 pm)

    I listened to the clip–quite an awful annoying sound. The sound in the clip is quite steady and not fluctuating. Could be though…

  • wssinglemom September 6, 2012 (8:53 pm)

    That’s the noise! I am very grateful for this blog. I seriously thought it was coming from my neighbors house, then I thought maybe something was going on with my ears. I kept trying to figure out what it could be…it sounds like a giant oscillating fan to me because it comes and goes. I hope they can pin point it and put a stop to it but I am really happy to know it’s not just me hearing it. Thank you for posting about this! -Highland park

  • Name (required) September 6, 2012 (9:02 pm)

    You all made the Radio on the Clyde Lewis show in portland (National Syndication too!). Check out .

    you can also check out the podcast in a few days once they post it…..

  • Lola P September 6, 2012 (9:10 pm)

    Great job DonHP!! That’s another one for citizen journalism.

    Wetone: Well… there *was* a Tardis spotted recently near Pigeon Point reported right here in daBlog:

  • Hummdinger September 6, 2012 (9:12 pm)

    You all will never come to a conclusion. I have been studying this for over a year. Good luck in your own research as I will be monitoring the USGS.

  • westseattledood September 6, 2012 (9:55 pm)

    Oops, meant fish not frogs. :/

  • RickM September 6, 2012 (10:35 pm)

    Heard it Monday or Tuesday night in Arbor Heights. I am a deep sleeper who never wakes up in the middle of the night. But I woke up at around 3am and the hum drove me insane for at least an hour. It was creepy and unnerving. I hope it’s gone.

  • P September 6, 2012 (10:36 pm)

    I always thought it was coming from my neighbors house because the hum would go away while they were on vacation. I live near the fauntleroy ferry so I’ve also thought it could be coming off the water. I really hope someone can get to the bottom of it because it’s incredibly annoying.

  • ttt September 6, 2012 (11:14 pm)

    I think the city is paying off the fish researchers… it cannot be just fish. It may be louder now, but this “hum” is in West Seattle, late at night on nights throughout the year…

  • Carol September 7, 2012 (12:22 am)

    Can hear it right now low and steady, creeps me out. My location is SW Henderson ST, about a block and half up from the Fauntleroy ferry. Been noticing this sound at night for about a week.

  • Bob smith September 7, 2012 (12:52 am)

    What you are hearing are sky quakes. The sound of CME protons hitting thecearths magnetosphere. The sun is in a highly active cycle, emitting late CME and proton bursts which is why our planet and the solar system is heating up. This is a natural cycle, global warming has little to do with Carbon emmissions which in the last 100 years could have not produced an instance of a volcanic eruption. Save 1 years supply of food and water, get prepared a large CME will produce an emp which will take down all electronics.. We live on a planet, the planet cycle evolves as well so should you.

  • Joey Marie Greenfield September 7, 2012 (3:19 am)

    I live in Menlo, Wa the middle of farm land with no neighbors and the closest city is 30 miles away, No power lines no wells no tunnels no military no factory no traffic, no old volcanos, just us and the horses and cows. Oh and the unrelenting humming that I and my son can hear but no one else can. An explanation would be great. I started hearing this about 4 months ago and it hasn’t stopped. Why can only some people hear this?

  • Carol September 7, 2012 (4:17 am)

    Posting again from SW Henderson ST. Hum is really loud now and it is mixed with a chugging sound interspersed with a tonal whine. Sounds like a construction project. This woke me up.

  • Travis September 7, 2012 (7:03 am)

    Its not acoustic, it’s not electro-magnetic, it has to do with acoustic-gravity waves, the ionisphere, and the power grid. The walls in your house can be affected like your inner ear, to vibrate at a given frequency. Dispute such widespread reporting and investigation, surprisingly no one has come forth with a reasonable explanation. How about some national, or even international cooperation on this? It’s been going on for years. No one wants to degrade their property price!

  • Peacock Feathers September 7, 2012 (7:56 am)

    I didn’t know fish were screamers…

  • Vashon Gal September 7, 2012 (8:50 am)

    I am so glad others have heard this. We live on the northend of Vashon and have heard it off and on for the past 5 days. Like the idea that it is a fish mating call

  • Bryan Hollister September 7, 2012 (9:06 am)

    Fish? Get real! The sound I think we’re talking about is mechanical: a very large engine, pump, centrifuge or something like that. When I first heard it I thought it sounded like a fire truck about a block away, with pumps running. As I walked around my house, it seemed to come from various other directions and I could tell it was much farther away. One day, early in the morning I followed the sound to Riverview Park, and from there it seemed to be coming from the east-northeast, in the Industrial District. The slag grinding theory is feasible. By the way, do Beacon Hill residents hear it as well? I’ve heard it various times, not just midnight to 4am. On one occasion I was noticing it for two days straight. I haven’t heard it at least in the past few days.

  • Jason September 7, 2012 (10:00 am)

    I love how King 5 jumped on this – and then uses byline “MYSTERY SOLVED” when they hadn’t even analyzed their overnight recordings… “Solved” my ass, Jim Forman!
    Anyone who understands the basics of energy transfer has to simply laugh at this “fish” theory. It would take a HUGE amount of energy to create a sound loud enough that it could be heard all over West Seattle and further, even if it was directly emitted from a land-based source. This whole fish/ship “reverberation” thing is nonsense. I don’t think you could fit enough fish in the Duwamish, let alone synchronized, to create enough energy that would be absorbed into a ship and then reverberated back into the atmosphere at such an audible level. Gimme a break.
    But, it got King 5 some viewers, so… whatever works!

    • WSB September 7, 2012 (10:23 am)

      Jason – I winced myself when I saw the pre-show tease declare the mystery was solved. But having worked in that field a gazillion years, I know that wasn’t Jim’s fault … a producer would have written it, maybe even hours before the newscast; long ago, I was to blame for more than a few teases that did not necessarily reflect what the reporter ultimately delivered. His story itself did not declare this was definitely THE answer. – TR

  • patt September 7, 2012 (10:40 am)

    Is there any correlation between the sound of the crust in our NW earthquake swarms
    (very small no big deal unnoticeable EQ that happen in clusters )
    and these sounds? Someone mentioned that they heard these sounds in Colorado.

    I like the sewer system echo idea someone mentioned best.

    My Gr aunt wrote a family story about a cave on the island she grow up on that in the spring sent “whispers” and water melting sounds from very far away.

  • Riverview September 7, 2012 (1:17 pm)

    I agree with what Bryan Hollister stated above. The sound crescendoed to its loudest the morning of Sept. 4th, from around midnight until 3-4 a.m. from Riverview, then, thank goodness, disappeared sometime after that. I haven’t heard it for the past three days, nor today.
    I think there are other low-pitched sounds emanating from the Duwamish industrial zone on an on-going basis, but this was something new and much louder, which went on for a week or so. It sounded just like Julie’s clip.
    The fish recording sounds completely different to me than the industrial sound. I’m sure someone could compare the frequencies and rule that one out. Nice try, though. Geez. No wonder I don’t watch the late night news.

  • J September 7, 2012 (4:09 pm)

    It’s the midshipman fish. Happens every time this year. Not sure why it’s more noticeable this season—anything from a few new buildings to greater humidity could contribute to the sound carrying farther. But it’s the fish.

  • JK in Shorewood September 7, 2012 (9:33 pm)

    I heard it this morning around 3:45am. Until I read this article I had thought it was my on again off again tinnitus! FYI I’m in Shorewood, off 116th & 28th.

  • Joe Morrow September 8, 2012 (10:37 am)

    I first noticed it last Wed or Thurs, beginning late at night, about Midnight. When does the plant start its grinding procedure? Also, it seems to coincide with the opening of the new unobstrcted lanes on the West Seattle viaduct. Any connection?

  • Ben September 9, 2012 (12:06 am)

    All over YouTube for the past few years there has been videos of people posting strange unknown sounds coming from the sky all over the world. Mainly trumpet sounds. Check it out. Maybe it’s another type of related sound, this hum. The Angels are warming up… ;O

  • 56bricks September 9, 2012 (5:26 am)

    I guess I should now thankful to have tinnitus. Pretty constant but with variations. At least I know the sounds I hear are coming from inside my head. Oh, and the voices too. (kidding on that part)

  • cs in hp September 10, 2012 (10:23 pm)

    I attempted to talk to the city about the “hum” back in April- which blows that silly King 5 fish explanation out of the water- it was way before the mating season that we were hearing it in Highland Park. The response from the city was patronizing, but here’s the gem: “Rain can mask the noise so you can’t hear it as well. You can use this to your advantage by playing music low or sounds like wind, rain and waves. These and other soothing nature sounds can mask the noise and allow some people to sleep better… Remember there are two parts to a noise problem. One is the source of the noise … Second is our reaction to that noise. The more we focus on the negative aspects of it the worse it gets.” that’s from the Noise Abatement Program for the City of Seattle.

  • Angela September 11, 2012 (10:02 am)

    I live in Tuncurry, NSW, Australia and this hum started here about a week ago for me. I thought I was going nuts and so tonight I decided to look on the net. Its so loud and it sounds like long vibratory pulsing. It seems that not everyone can hear this sound yet, but I do know that it is outside of me.

  • Arbor Heights September 11, 2012 (11:42 pm)

    I’m near 35th and Roxbury and I’ve heard this noise for years- it keeps me awake in the summer! I’ve blamed it on truck noise from Safeway, or mysterious night construction.

    It’s 11:40pm on 9/11 and I can hear it quite loudly.

  • globaltroublemaker September 13, 2012 (11:33 pm)


    Perhaps there is a cement production plant (like Lafarge) somewhere near Tuncurry? Might be worth investigating. Seems most places which have reported weird hums like this are within 25-30 miles of a Lafarge production facility of one kind or another. Might be a huge coincidence and probably just another lame conspiracy theory.

  • RunnerGirl September 21, 2012 (12:20 pm)

    The eerie, loud hum seems to have made its way to Arbor Heights today.

  • gerry v September 24, 2012 (7:58 pm)

    I live in highland park , right adjacent to the greenbelt, i’ve heard it in the past several weeks but tonight (9/24) it seems louder than usual – alot louder, increasing in intensity for a minute or two, decreasing for several more , than back up again……. ugh!

  • DonHP September 24, 2012 (11:18 pm)

    Yep, Lafarge fired up their loud machine again today at around 3pm. It’s been up and down all evening. First time we’ve heard it since the Weds after Labor Day. Hoping someone here or the media would talk to Lafarge and have them explain the machine and what it does, and how often they need to run it. We could co-exist with them just fine if they would simply publish a schedule of when they need to run the thing. Now that I’m ticked off at them for keeping me awake at night, I’m curious to see the machine myself and learn what it heck it does and how it works. Something to do with manufacturing wall board or cement etc.
    I’ve been to their front gate now several times, and the machine is in their north complex. The sound varies from soft to very loud. It sounds like a huge wood planer that gets louder when it works harder which explains why from a distance, it seems to swell up and down in volume.
    I posted the Youtube clip a few weeks ago so check it out if you haven’t seen or heard it yet.

    • WSB September 24, 2012 (11:23 pm)

      DonHP, we talked to them when this all came up the first time (see link in this story) and, while saying they couldn’t say it wasn’t them, they couldn’t say it was. Did you contact the city noise investigators and point out your clip to them?

  • DonHP September 25, 2012 (8:06 pm)

    -thanks for the response.
    I guess if we have another night like last night, (noise was loud till 5am) my wife and I will contact whoever will listen to our complaint. Lafarge’s response to you was crap. They know very well it’s them. The problem is the machine runs at a lot of different volume levels. Sometimes, the whine/hum is fairly soft but can ramp up to deafening. I’m starting to form a pattern that they run the machine over weekends and holiday weekends and interestingly, during last nights Seahawk game. Makes one think they are trying to run the thing when people are out-or town or preoccupied. Never on a week day when their own office workers are there.
    We’ve lived here in Highland Park for 31 years and have never had issues with all the heavy industry down along the river or around Boeing. Most of the loud noises are temporary and things usually calm down in the evenings. But this Lafarge thing is a sound/frequency that travels a long distance and is pretty damn annoying. I’ve heard it in the past but only for a day or so. Now we’re looking at about 6 day/nights within a month. Let’s get someone down there to interview them, and get to the bottom of what they are doing. As I wrote earlier. I would be happy if they published a schedule here on the WSB of when they need to run the machine. If it’s for only a day a month or so, we could deal with that. Any more then that, then we have a big problem.

Sorry, comment time is over.