UPDATE – Officials at Edwards Air Force Base confirmed that a F-22 jet flying in the West Pacific Test Flight Range 50 miles west of Vandenberg AFB caused a series of sonic booms that sent shock waves through the Tri-counties Thursday morning.”It kind of sounded like a cannon going off, or a car accident, or just a couple gunshots in a far distance,” said Matthew Romero, Santa Barbara resident. The first one hit at 9:34am in the Santa Barbara area followed by at least a half dozen more over the next hour. People called into the KEY newsroom from Thousand Oaks to Morro Bay saying they felt them and thought they were earthquakes.”I was in San Roque on the phone, heard a boom, my dog started barking and the person in Goleta actually heard it about 15 seconds before me,” said Chris Madsen. Edwards officials say weather conditions allowed everyone to hear and feel the shock waves.”We all looked up looking for an aircraft but never saw one,” Randy Rounds, Santa Barbara resident. “We can confirm it was an F-22 flying in the Western Pacific Test Range on an authorized test flight, 50 miles west of the Vandenberg coastline. Edwards conducts these types of operations year round but today’s atmospheric conditions allowed the boom to be heard and felt along the Central Coast,” according to the Edwards Air Force Base statement. The San Luis Obispo County Sheriff’s Dept. released a statement at 10:42am explaining that it confirmed through various state and federal agencies that there has been no seismic activity, but it may be activity caused by military aircraft flying over our area.The U.S. Geological survey website shows a 2.6 magnitude quake hit the Cherry Valley area in Riverside County at 9:34am, but timing of the first sonic boom and the quake led some people to mistakenly believe the jolt was an earthquake.Steve Walter, a seismologist with the USGS in Menlo Park, told KEY News in a phone interview that the jolts appeared to be happening in the atmosphere, something he calls “air phase”. He said many of the phone calls he received were from the Vandenberg, Lompoc, Diablo Canyon and Santa Maria areas. He said the reports he has heard are similar to what the Navy does in Northern California when they blow up older explosives. The blasts can be felt for up to 100 miles away. “It just thought it was an earthquake and waiting for the next tremor,” said Laurie Vasquez, Santa Barbara resident. And although it wasn’t, earthquakes and sonic booms do have a lot of the same characteristics. “In this case it sort of started off small, got larger and then teetered off. So as you would expect in this case a jet airplane is approaching from a distance, flying overhead and then disappearing off in the distance again,” said Walter.
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