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That's No Earthquake: Sonic Boom Felt In South New Jersey, LI, Causing Some Damage

HAMMONTON, N.J. (CBSNewYork) -- That rumbling many people felt across South Jersey and Long Island Thursday afternoon was not an earthquake.

It turned out to be a sonic boom. The Pentagon confirmed the sonic booms were from F-35's out of Maryland, WCBS 880's Peter Haskell reports.

"We've had numerous calls about people feeling shaking or hearing a loud boom," Dr. Gavin Hayes, a research seismologist for the U.S. Geological Survey, told WCBS 880. "We've analyzed our signals and have seen no evidence of an earthquake in the area, but we have recorded several signals that are consistent with a sonic boom."

The Defense Department said in a statement that "under certain atmospheric conditions there is an increased potential to hear the sound."

"Aircraft from Naval Test Wing Atlantic were conducting routine flight testing in the Atlantic Test Ranges this afternoon that included activities which may have resulted in sonic booms," the department said in a statement. "An F-35C from Naval Air Station Patuxent River, MD was conducting supersonic testing in a cleared military flight area off the east coast earlier today. An F/A-18 aircraft accompanied the F-35C during the test."

According to the USGS, the sonic boom was reported from southern New Jersey along the Eastern Seaboard to Long Island.

"Around the times that the reports did start coming in from southern New Jersey -- around 1:30 and 2:30 -- we did have two F35-Cs that were conducting supersonic testing in that area," Connie Hempel, spokesperson for the Naval Air Station Patuxent River, told WCBS 880.

Hayes told WCBS that the sonic boom could have been caused by an aircraft.

"It could be something like an aircraft moving at the speed of sound. When an object exceeds the speed of sound the compression of air that is associated with that causes that shaking that people felt," Hayes said.

Many residents called 911 and police departments wondering if it was an earthquake. Jason from Brick Township, New Jersey, told CBS2's Valerie Castro that he initially thought it was.

"The windows were rattling every 10 minutes or so," he said. "It was kind of an odd feeling. ... It kind of felt uncomfortable."

Police officials in Barnegat, New Jersey, reported sightings of cracked ceilings caused by the sonic boom at a local senior community on Susan Drive.

Cracked Ceiling, Sonic Boom
Barnegat Township Police Department reported sightings of cracked ceilings at a local senior community after a sonic boom on Jan. 28, 2016. (Credit: Barnegat Police)

The 177th Fighter Wing said on its Facebook page that they've received a number of calls regarding tremors felt in the area.

"We have seen the report from the US Geological Survey's (USGS) Earthquake Hazards Program about a Sonic Boom reported over Hammonton, NJ today at 1:24 p.m," the statement said. "177th Fighter Wing aircraft were not flying at that time and we're also hoping to learn the cause of the disturbance."

The Ocean County Sheriff's Office took to Twitter shortly after the sonic boom, telling residents not to call 911 unless it's a life-threatening emergency.

Several people described their houses and windows shaking.

"I'm in Brick, the first one felt like a helicopter was landing on the roof. After that, about six or seven times, it was much less, but the doors were rattling like someone was shaking them trying to get in. Smaller shakes each time. Couldn't really say if it felt like it was coming from the ground or the air," Diane Kerslake Eaton told Jersey Shore Hurricane News.

Eaton told CBS2's Castro that even her dog seemed nervous.

"When she felt it, she came out and she was kind of running around in circles, looking at me like, 'What's going on?" she said.

Other people in south Jersey took to social media, wondering if others had felt it too.

"I have felt 5-6 short, but very noticeable tremors. These were rattlings where the house was shaking, not at all like the rolling wave felt from back in 2011. I thought it was terrible wind maybe, but outside the trees looked calm during these moments. This was in Galloway, NJ," Sheri Hansen said.

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