Monday, December 5, 2022

An Unknown Projectile Damaged a Window on the Mendocino County Coast—Was It a Meteorite?

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The Geminid Meteor Shower photographed by Jeff Sullivan in 2014 near Topaz Lake on the California-Nevada border [From his Flickr account]

On the night of Friday, November 5, 2022, Fort Bragg Police officers were dispatched to reports of gunshots striking the window of a Fort Bragg residence.

After investigators examined the damage and gathered statements from witnesses, Fort Bragg Police Chief Neil Cervenka told us the projectile that damaged a window of a home on Azaela Way was most definitely not a bullet. 

Emphasizing his theory is circumstantial and speculative in nature, he posited that instead of a bullet, the window was struck by a meteorite the size of a grain of rice associated with the fireball from the Taurid meteor shower seen across Northern California on Friday night.

Chief Cervenka has seen many windows damaged by bullets in his 22 years as a police officer and after he personally inspected the damaged window, he knows a bullet was not the cause.

The resident told dispatch he heard something “larger than a .22” before the window was damaged. Chief Cervenka said witnesses in the area did not corroborate this telling investigators they heard nothing like gunfire.

A bright Taurid fireball recorded by the NASA All Sky Fireball Network station in Tullahoma, Tennessee in 2014. [Photograph from NASA]

Fort Bragg Police investigators were on the scene Friday night taking the initial report and went back to the scene yesterday.

He told us the damage indicated that a small object coming from a high angle above the one-story home struck the double-paned window from the west. The object traveled through the first pane, leaving a small hole. The second pane did not appear to have been penetrated but what Chief Cervenka described as the window’s tint appeared to be damaged. He suggested the small object essentially struck the interior of the second pane and shattered, obliterating its remains and damaging the tint in the process.

Could it have been a BB gun? Chief Cervenka doubts a BB could penetrate a double-pane modern window and the damage indicates the projectile came from high above the home, in a neighborhood dominated by single-story residences. 

Chief Cervenka did offer the other way the projectile could have come from such a high angle is someone shooting a firearm into the sky, the bullet arching and falling back towards earth, and finally striking the window. But, that would still not explain the strange damage to the window, uncharacteristic of any sort of bullet.

Chief Cervenka was hesitant to offer an astronomical phenomenon as the cause but told us after reading reports of the Taurid meteor shower and the fireball seen above Northern California Friday evening he began to consider the possibility a meteorite struck the window.

Residents across Northern California reported a fireball streaking from west to east across the night sky on Friday night. Footage from El Dorado and Shasta County captured the object as it hurled through the atmosphere.

A Nevada County man’s home burned down Friday night which he and others are speculating was caused by a meteorite strike. The house fire began at approximately the same time witnesses say the fireball flew above.  It’s worth noting that firefighters have yet to determine the exact cause of the fire.

The earth is in the midst of the annual Taurid meteor shower which can bring with it fireballs in the night sky. NASA described how these fireballs are the product of pebble-sized fragments burning up in the earth’s atmosphere.

Wired Magazine estimates the chances of a home being struck by a meteorite as 1 in 3,921,910,064,328.

But, as recently as 2021 a meteorite crashed through the roof of a Canadian woman’s home and landed on her bed.

Strange things can happen. 

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3 COMMENTS

  1. Police chief doesn’t think a BB gun can penetrate a modern double pane window? If he’d like I’d be happy to show him how wrong he is about that.

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Matt LaFever
Matt LaFeverhttps://mendofever.com/
I like to think of myself as a journalist for the everyman. Journalism has become a craft practiced largely by the urban elite. It’s time to take it back. I have been an Emerald Triangle resident since 2006 and this is year ten in Mendocino County. Please, email me at matthewplafever@gmail.com if you know a story that needs to be told.

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