A LANL statement said it was unusual for its blasts to be heard off-site, but this one was heard all over Santa Fe — about 25 miles away as the crow flies — and as far east as Eldorado and as far south as La Cienega.
Social media exploded — figuratively, of course — after the boom, as people around the area who heard and felt the blast wondered about its source.
“Does anyone know what’s up with the explosions/shock-waves today?” a man wrote on the Santa Fe Bulletin Board, a Facebook page where people can post announcements, get recommendations about good restaurants or ask where they can buy firewood. “I’ve felt two so far off Jaguar and (N.M.) 599 and confirmed with a friend on St. Michaels that he felt it too. Are any testing ranges close enough to do this?”
Others wrote that they, too, heard an explosion before noon and another one about 3 p.m. Speculation ran wild, with people suggesting it may have been a sonic boom or an earthquake. One poster suggested, perhaps tongue-in-cheek, that it was caused by the Russians.
At 4:38 p.m., LANL, about 25 miles from Santa Fe as the crow flies, responded to inquires by issuing a statement that said: “The Laboratory did conduct a large high explosives experiment on Thursday, Jan. 11 at approximately 3 p.m.
“The Laboratory uses high explosives in a wide variety of dynamic experiments, conducting several hundred experiments per year. While the vast majority of these experiments use small amounts of explosives, some are large enough to be heard off site. Before all experiments, the Laboratory does an extensive assessment of atmospheric conditions in order to limit the possibility of off site sound intrusions. All experiments are conducted under strict regulations and with the utmost in safety, security and environmental stewardship.”
Santa Fe police officers heard the blast and a police spokesman said late in the day that blast may have originated at the Caja del Rio Landfill.
But Danita Boettner, the landfill manager, said, “I was outside when it happened and it wasn’t us.”
A spokesman for Kirtland Air Force Base in Albuquerque told the Journal they don’t have aircraft there fast enough to create a sonic boom.
Officials with the Santa Fe Fire Department and Santa Fe County Sheriff’s Office said they had no idea what may have caused the explosion.
The cause of the earlier blast people reported hearing closer to noon was not confirmed.