John Metcalfe was CityLab’s Bay Area bureau chief, covering climate change and the science of cities.
Windows exploded, buildings shook and a billowing pair of smoke trails marked the heavens.
What appears to be a large meteor (CNN reports it was "at least the of, say, a kitchen table") ripped through the atmosphere today over the Chelyabinsk region in Russia, burning out the sky with the light of a billion exploding flashbulbs and leaving billowing smoke trails like a shuttle reentry gone terribly awry.
Official Russian news agency Itar-Tass reported early Friday morning (EST time) that at least 150 people had been injured by the effects of the sonic boom, which knocked down the roof and walls of a zinc plant in the vicinity of Chelyabinsk. Meanwhile, RT chimed in to say that as many as 500 people had sought medical attention for "minor injuries" after the speeding object crashed through the skies, blowing broken window glass all over and somehow causing "concussions." Here's an excerpt:
At least one piece of the fallen object caused damage on the ground in Chelyabinsk. According to preliminary reports, it crashed into a wall near a zinc factory, disrupting the city's Internet and mobile service.
The Emergency Ministry reported that 20,000 rescue workers are operating in the region. Three aircraft were deployed to survey the area and locate other possible impact locations.
Witnesses said the explosion was so loud that it seemed like an earthquake and thunder had struck at the same time, and that there were huge trails of smoke across the sky. Others reported seeing burning objects fall to earth.
The prolonged space-thunder set off car alarms and nervous dogs and babies across the land. Give this video a couple seconds of build-up to experience the bone-electrifying jolt that Russians must have felt when this thing whizzed by:
NASA said earlier that the asteroid 2012 DA14 projected to pass near earth today has "no chance" of colliding with the planet, so this appears to be a separate, freakishly timed phenomenon. But c'mon you NASA guys: After Presidents Day, I want to see an intense equation diagramming the probability of these two rare events happening at virtually the same moment.
And it was damn incredible – a once-in-a-lifetime event for most people. Here's some more footage that was popping up early Friday morning, beginning with a school that gets its windows cancelled:
Because this is Russia, here's the obligatory dash-cam view (warning: if you speak Russian, there's probably profanity in here):
One more look at that ferocious sonic assault: