RUMFORD – Sonic booms from two U.S. Navy fighter jets on a training mission over Western Maine on Wednesday morning triggered a flood of emergency calls within seconds, said dispatch center director James P. Miclon.

Immediately after the 10:50 a.m. disturbance shook buildings and rattled people in Andover, Mexico, Peru and Rumford, the Oxford County Regional Communications Center in Paris was burdened with 911 calls.

“I think most of them were from people complaining about loud explosions,” Miclon said. “It was F-18 fighters practicing. We confirmed it with the Navy military bases in Boston and Vermont.”

Maine residents and emergency response agencies had no warning Wednesday morning of the flyover.

“It was just the right hand not talking to the left hand, kind of like what happened in New York, but on a rural scale,” said Scott Parker, director of the Oxford County Emergency Management Agency in Paris.

He was referring to one of President Barack Obama’s official Boeing 747s being flown low over New York City on Monday morning. It was escorted by an F-16 jet for the purpose of taking photos of it. Neither the president, nor New York City officials were advised ahead of time of the flight, which brought panic and outrage from some residents.

Parker said the Navy doesn’t have to notify anyone of its training missions, but it would have been nice, he added, if only to forewarn emergency dispatchers or to alert the public.

When the first 911 calls streamed in, dispatchers checked first with the Brunswick Naval Air Station, Miclon said.

“All they had up at the time were a C-130 and two P-3 Orions, which are all propeller-driven, so it wasn’t them,” Miclon said.

That’s when they checked with the Navy in Boston and Vermont and learned fighter jets caused the sonic booms.

Some people initially attributed it to an earthquake.

One caller to the Rumford Falls Times said there was an earthquake in Newfoundland. Two Maine geologists – Woodrow B. Thompson and Henry Berry in Augusta – confirmed the Newfoundland quake.

However, Berry said the 3.3 magnitude temblor happened at 9:30 p.m. on Tuesday, which would have been 8 p.m. in Maine. Newfoundland time is an hour and a half ahead of eastern time.


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