​Fireball & sonic boom witnessed from Florida to South Carolina

Heat map of fireball sightings (Image from AMSmeteors.org)
Residents of the Sunshine State say they spotted a massive fireball soar through the Florida sky over the weekend, and similar reports have since surfaced from as far away as South Carolina.

According to the American Meteorological Society (AMS), 189 people have filed reports since late Saturday evening, when they saw a fireball cut through the night sky. At least 15 eyewitnesses described seeing the phenomenon accompanied by what the AMS called a "window rattling delayed boom."

It “sounded like an explosion,” a witness, who gave her name as Kasey W. from Lake City, FL, told the AMS. Another person who said she encountered the fireball, Lindsey E., also of Lake City, said her “windows and walls shook along with a loud pop and boom.”

The AMS has logged reports from supposed witnesses in Florida, Georgia and South Carolina, and experts told local media that the apparent sightings seem to suggest a meteor is to blame.

“The fact that people heard sonic booms [means] it did survive down to the lower atmosphere," Robert Lunsford, a volunteer with the AMS, told Jacksonville’s WJXT. "So there's a good chance that some small fragments may have reached the ground probably about 50 miles west of Jacksonville.”

“The best way I can describe it is it looked like a large firework,” witness Tracie Sradley told Jacksonville’s Action News. “But then there was a big ball of fire behind it and as quick as we seen it, it was gone.”

The fireball, Sradley said, was “just like the brightest, the prettiest – it was actually gorgeous, it was beautiful.”

According to the AMS, reports from across the Deep South suggest the meteor was heading northeast and indeed met its demise just west of Jacksonville — around 250 miles south of Augusta, GA, where some witness reports were filed.

Sunday’s incident came just a few days after similar reports surfaced up the East Coast, where residents of the Mid-Atlantic states on Tuesday described seeing a fireball that the AMS believes was a 500-pound meteor that was traveling at around 45,000 miles per hour before breaking up in western Pennsylvania.

Lunsford told WJXT that this time of year presents the perfect conditions for meteor viewing.

"At this time of the year in the evening sky, we have a path in the sky called the ecliptic is where the moon and the sun and the planets all follow," he said. "During those three months it's highest in the sky during the evening hours.”