Big boom, flash likely an exploding meteor

The sky lights up in Washington in this still image from video by Derek Hnilica.

The jury’s still out, but experts say the flash of light and loud boom seen and heard from Portland to Seattle Wednesday night was most likely a bolide meteoroid.

A bolide is an extremely bright meteor that explodes in the atmosphere. Astronomers say it’s about as bright as the full moon.

Jim Todd at OMSI said it appeared the bolide broke up just above the clouds, which created those flashes. It was followed by a sonic boom.

It happened over western Washington near Grays Harbor just before 7:30 p.m.

Dispatchers in Grays Harbor County were flooded with calls from people reporting the event.

Grays Harbor County Sheriff Rick Scott said he was driving from Olympia back to Grays Harbor County, when he too saw the giant flash.

"I saw a huge flash of what appeared to be orange light, light up the entire horizon to the West," he said.

He said he didn't hear anything since he was in his car and on the road, but there were hundreds of reports of a loud boom that shook the ground.

"Whatever it was, was a huge, huge burst of bright light," said Scott. "It took up the entire horizon, so it wasn't like it was a fireball, although the color was similar to what you would see with something like that."

Witnesses also told dispatchers the light was orange. Most of the callers were along the coast, especially in the Westport area.

People in the Portland area reported hearing and feeling the event. They posted on KATU's Facebook page various locations they heard or felt something. Those locations included: Clackamas, Tigard, Sherwood, North Portland, Northeast Portland, Beaverton, Garden Home, Cedar Mill and Southwest Portland.

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