Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Erath County, Texas: Booms from training exercise startle residents

DUBLIN — Incredibly loud bangs, one after the other, sent Dublin residents scrambling from their homes just before 9 p.m. Tuesday as windows rattled and buildings shook.

Erath County Constable Lee Roy Gaitan said another occurrence of the loud bangs had occurred about 4:45 p.m. He said he received several calls from concerned residents asking him to check into the source, which apparently was a jet training exercise.

Don Ray, public information officer at the Fort Worth Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base, said the base had two training exercises at those times, the first one involving 10 F-16s and the second involving 12 F-16s.

"These were operational readiness evaluations." Ray said. "It puts them (pilots) back into the cycle to deploy back overseas."

Ray said the base sends out two jets at a time so they don't all arrive in the Brownwood Military Operating Area at once.

Ray said cloud cover can affect the noise level.

"If the clouds are low, the noise level will be greater," he said.

He couldn't speculate as to whether or not the sound barrier had been broken but said according to the FAA the barrier can be legally broken if the aircraft is above 31,000 feet. Ray said from the ground it's hard to judge the distance.

Donna Kirklen, Erath County Sheriff's Office sergeant over communications, said the office received numerous phone calls from the west and southwest portions of Erath County.

Dublin Police Chief Lannie Lee said the same was true for his office and in his own home the pictures almost shook off the wall. He first thought was that an explosion had occurred.

"It was abnormally loud and intense," he said.

A spokesperson for the Stephenville Police Department said the department did not receive any word of the noise during the morning meeting on Wednesday and didn't believe any calls came in when the events occurred.

Ray said if anyone experienced damage to a building to call the air base and they would be put in touch with the legal department.

All of the law enforcement agencies contacted said they had no reports of damage.

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