HILL AIR FORCE BASE — The large boom and subsequent earth shaking residents along the northern Wasatch Front heard and felt Monday likely originated from Hill Air Force Base’s west desert training range.
In a press release, Hill spokesperson Donovan Potter said there was a large detonation operation at the Utah Test and Training Range just after noon, which may have been the cause of the shaking and rumbling that local residents noticed.
Potter said the detonation involved the destruction of a rocket motor and solid propellant of a Navy ballistic missile.
Michelle Cottle, chief of Hill’s 75th Civil Engineer Group’s Environmental Branch, said the Air Force typically takes atmospheric readings before large detonations to check wind speed, direction and other factors, which are then entered into a “sound model.” Air Force officials use the process to determine if conditions are within an acceptable noise range. Cottle said if the model predicts that noise is going to be louder than permitted levels at locations along the Wasatch Front, a detonation will be delayed.
“(But) with the variability of upper atmospheric weather conditions this time of the year, the model does not always accurately predict sound levels along the Wasatch Front,” Cottle said, adding that Hill detonations have been felt by Northern Utah resident in years prior.
Every year, seemingly without fail, residents along the Wasatch Front report mysterious booms or unexplained tremors.
The source is usually Hill Air Force Base.
The Air Force began its yearly round of large detonation operations at the UTTR in early June. According to a press release from the base’s Environmental Public Affairs office, the detonations will occur through the end of September.
The warhead portion of the missile isn’t detonated at the UTTR and no nuclear materials are involved in the process. Since 2012, more than 300 rocket motors have been destroyed at the site, according to the base press release.
Cottle said the UTTR is the only facility in the United States capable of destroying the missile motors. The nation’s missile motor inventory has been disposed of at the range for more than 20 years — with crews destroying more than 1 million pounds of rocket motor propellant to date.