[meteorite-list] Glowing Streak In Sky Spurs Calls To 911

From: Ron Baalke <baalke_at_meteoritecentral.com>
Date: Thu Apr 22 09:43:34 2004
Message-ID: <200107242121.OAA10607_at_zagami.jpl.nasa.gov>


Glowing streak in sky spurs calls to 911

Visible in Lehigh Valley, it appears in many states. Experts say it was a
meteor shower.

Of The Morning Call (Pennsylvania)
July 24, 2001

A fireball believed to be a meteor raced across the evening sky Monday in a
blazing arch seen from upstate New York to Virginia.

In Schuylkill County, the burning streak of light was initially thought to
be a burning airplane that crashed on Peach Mountain, said Tara Dolzani, a
supervisor at the county communications center.

Later there were reports of brush fires 25 to 30 miles apart in Frackville
and Washington Township "possibly due to these meteorites,'' Dolzani said.

In Bethlehem, police said they received a call about 6:45 p.m. that a ball
of fire had struck South Mountain. According to the dispatcher, the call
came from a pay phone at Wendy's on Route 412.

Kerry and Joanne Myers and Jim Kayal, all of Easton, were watching a
football camp at Lehigh University's Goodman Campus when they saw something
in the sky.

"It was just a big reddish glare that was moving pretty fast," Joanne Myers
said. "I saw it and thought it was something shining off the windshield of
the car. It was all different colors."

Kayal said he saw it and thought it was the sun glinting off an airplane and
did not give it another thought.

According to the three of them, the object was moving from east to west and
disappeared over the north side of the mountain. They did not see it hit

Lehigh University police were called to help Bethlehem police search the
mountain for a crashed airplane. An officer went to the top of Iacocca Tower
on the Mountaintop Campus, but saw nothing.

The National Weather Service at Mount Holly, N.J., said it began getting
calls about 6:30 p.m.

"They are asking us what it is,'' said meteorologist Anthony Gigi. "We don't
know what it is.

Gigi said the weather service received reports of a large fireball moving
rapidly through the sky from as far south as Virginia.

Alexander Wolszczan, an astronomy professor at Penn State University, said
he believes it was a meteor shower.

"It was most likely an unusually large meteoroid that exploded in the air
still very high up in the atmosphere and probably producing a shower of
debris,'' Wolszczan said. "It really sounds like an unusually big chunk of
interplanetary matter.''

"It probably wasn't that big, perhaps the size of a chair,'' said Gary A.
Becker, director of the Allentown School District Planetarium. When it
entered the atmosphere, he said, it was probably moving at 10 to 15 miles
per second.

Though many witnesses reported the fireball moving toward the west, Becker
said the meteor, which he said was seen in Cape May, N.J., "probably went
down into the Atlantic Ocean.''He said he also doubted the meteor started
brush fires in Schuylkill County.

"I can't imagine they would be related,'' he said. "The reason is that
although they are hot when they are coming in, when they land, they
immediately become very cold because their insides are extremely cold.''

"Meteorites don't start fires,'' he said.

Edward Anderson was sitting on his patio in the Fairways of Brookside
condominium development in Lower Macungie when he saw it.

"I've never seen anything like it,'' Anderson said. "It was so bright.''

Charlie Allen of Wescosville was coming home from work on the Northeast
Extension of the Turnpike between Quakertown and Allentown when he saw it.

"It was moving fast and looked as bright as the sun, only orange," he said.

"It was quick. I lost sight of it in the trees. It seemed to be moving too
fast for a plane.''

Karen Marhefka of Jim Thorpe was also on the Turnpike when she saw it.

"I was on my way home. I was about 2 miles from the Lehigh Tunnel, heading
north," she said. "I noticed bright streaks going across my windshield."

George Mauer of Emmaus, the former director of the planetarium at the Lehigh
Valley Astronomical Society, said it was "probably a meteorite or space junk
falling down.''

"These are random,'' he said. "Every so often you get one of these chunks
coming from outer space. Gravity of Earth draws it in, friction ignites it,
usually not much lands.

"At its peak you'll see 50 streaks in an hour after midnight,'' he said.

Jim Crampsie of Summit Hill was watching a Little League game when he saw
bright flashes sail across the sky.

"It was about 7 p.m. and someone hollered, 'Look up there!' It was an orange
flame," said Crampsie, the borough council president. "It was amazing. It
came right over from Lansford way and went right down. I was looking north
and saw it come down."

Joe and Phyllis Pochron, Allentown natives who now live in Florida, were
driving on Hanover Avenue in the city when they saw what they described as a
white streak shooting across the sky north of them.

"I was just hoping it wasn't a plane," Joe Pochron said.

Emergency dispatchers in Bucks, Berks and Lehigh counties received calls
from eyewitnesses reporting a fireball in the sky.

In Lehigh County, the calls started coming in about 6:30 p.m. and ended
within 15 or 20 minutes, according to a supervisor at the 911 center.

Each succeeding call seemed to move north as the calls shifted to Schuylkill
and Luzerne counties. In Bucks County, a dispatcher said a Doylestown caller
said the fireball seemed to be heading north.

The Lehigh County supervisor said it took about 10 minutes for everyone to
figure out that the fireball was not a plane crashing.

"We realized that no plane could get to Scranton that fast," he said.

In Lackawanna County, just one report on the fireball was called in, from

"Two children told an off-duty police officer that they saw a fireball in
the sky", said P.J. McHugh, a supervisor at the Lackawana County
Communications Center.

Monday's fireball was not part of the annual Perseids meteor shower.

Those meteor showers arrive next month when the Earth passes through a
region of the solar system littered with the remnants of a comet that broke
up, Maurer said.

Staff writers Daryl Nerl, Bill Tattersall, Chris Parker and David Slade
contributed to this report.

Reporter Joe McDonald
Received on Tue 24 Jul 2001 05:21:05 PM PDT

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