Sonic Boom or Earthquake? What Caused Tremors on Long Island?

U.S. Navy F/A-18 approaching the sound barrier.

The tremors felt by residents from Long Island to New Jersey Thursday afternoon were not caused by an earthquake, but a sonic boom in the Garden State, officials said.

The United States Geological Survey (USGS) in a Tweet reported that the sonic boom emanated from New Jersey at around 1:30 p.m. It’s unclear what caused the purported sonic boom.

Social media erupted after users from Long Island to New Jersey reported the ground shaking.

Twitter users told of tremors in Valley Stream, Amityville, Manorville and other communities.

Diane Bates of Amityville said she didn’t hear any kind of loud noise outside before the ground shook. She counted as many as seven tremors.

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“Did anyone else feel the earthquake?” one Twitter user wrote. “I am on Long Island have felt three tremors so far.”

One Press reporter who was in Melville at around 1:30 p.m. said he heard a “boom” and the building he was in rattled. The reporter recalled thinking that something had fallen off a truck and smashed into the building.

The USGS did not elaborate on the source of the sonic boom, which are typically caused by an object traveling through the air faster than the speed of sound.

Here’s how NASA explains a sonic boom:

“A sonic boom is the thunder-like noise a person on the ground hears when an aircraft or other type of aerospace vehicle flies overhead faster than the speed of sound or supersonic. Air reacts like a fluid to supersonic objects. As objects travel through the air, the air molecules are pushed aside with great force and this forms a shock wave much like a boat creates a bow wave. The bigger and heavier the aircraft, the more air it displaces.”

The last time Long Island experienced an earthquake was 2011, when a 5.8 magnitude jolt in Virginia radiated through Nassau and Suffolk counties.