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National Weather Service: Meteors may have caused loud 'boom, shaking' in western Pennsylvania

Keith Srakocic
Local and federal authorities haven't determined the source of a loud noise reported Saturday morning by residents of Pittsburgh and multiple communities in western Pennsylvania.

A meteor explosion likely caused the loud "boom" noise and shaking sensation experienced by many people around the region Saturday morning, according to the National Weather Service Pittsburgh.

The GOES-16 weather satellite — stationed over the western hemisphere to deliver images and data on atmospheric conditions and solar activity — showed a flash above western Pennsylvania at that time that was not associated with lightning, the weather service said.

"No confirmation, but this is the most likely explanation at this time," it said.

Allegheny County officials said they received multiple reports from people who said they experienced “a loud boom, shaking” around 11:20 a.m. Saturday in the South Hills and other parts of western Pennsylvania.

Users of Twitter and other social media platforms also posted similar reports from multiple communities around Allegheny County and southern Washington County. Many of them speculated Saturday that an earthquake caused the phenomena, but government and weather officials quickly ruled that out.

“We confirmed no seismic activity and no thunder/lightning,” Allegheny County Director of Communications Amie Downs wrote in an email Saturday. “At this point, we have no explanation for it, but agencies are continuing to look.”

The U.S. Geological Survey, which monitors and reports on earthquakes, also said Saturday that the agency has not detected an earthquake in the area and has not reported seismic activity.

Jenna Lake, a meteorologist with the weather service, said no thunder or lightning was reported in the region at that time. Local 911 centers did not have evidence of any explosions in the area, she added.

“We’ve seen a lot of reports on social media of big booms, but we really don’t know,” said Lake. “We really don’t have any evidence that it was an earthquake.”

Lake said the sound may have been caused by a meteor shower that passed by or entered the atmosphere.

Updated: January 2, 2022 at 10:08 AM EST
Updated to reflect NWS Pittsburgh statement that a meteor explosion likely was the cause of the noise and shaking sensation.
Julia Zenkevich is a general assignment reporter for 90.5 WESA. She first joined the station as a production assistant on The Confluence, and more recently served as a fill-in producer for The Confluence and Morning Edition. She’s a life-long Pittsburgher, and attended the University of Pittsburgh. She can be reached at