Boom! Goes the Neighborhood: Spring means unexplained explosions return to South Minneapolis

For at least four Spring/Summers a series of unexplained explosions have rocked the Longfellow/Seward neighborhoods of Minneapolis.  911 Operators have been inundated with phone calls from concerned residents whose homes are shaken from these loud earth-shaking sonic booms.

These explosion noises began four years ago during  very hot summer and I shrugged them off as transformer explosions as they seemed to correspond to power failures as well.  But they have continued every season since.  A discussion with the Minneapolis Police Department reveals that there has been an ongoing investigation into the source of the explosion noises and while they have been able to rule out certain causes such as a natural source (river/sewer, etc) they have been unable to find a reason, person, cause responsible for them.

The explosions got much more attention when St. Paul was host to the Republican National Convention with Homeland Security very much involved in the investigation, setting up nighttime surveillance by the river.  Obviously neither they, nor the Minneapolis Police Department are willing to divulge specific details regarding the ongoing investigation but the explosions continue so they have been unable to “solve” the case.

While this is disturbing for someone like me, who lives two blocks from the Mississippi River which is the location from which these explosions are originating, between Lake Street & Ford Bridges, I am reassured by who is working on the case. The attention the Bomb Squad and MPD Third Precinct investigators are giving to this matter is the best for which Minneapolis and St. Paul residents (they are just across the river after all) can hope.  They have been thorough and Inspector Lucy Gerold & Sergeant Wally Krueger have been extremely responsive to my inquiries, living in one of the neighborhoods most affected.

Frustrating investigators is that the explosions can only be heard and they have been unable to discover much evidence, which is why they have asked for cooperation from anyone who may be able to help. If you see anything suspicious by the West River or East River Parkways at night you are asked to call police and if you hear the explosions you are also asked to first check  if you can see anything (a light flash, smoke, etc) then call 911 to report from where you think the explosions originated. Pinpointing the location will help investigators and responders.

Saturday, May 15th, the response to the explosions (there were two, one at 10:15pm and another at 11:30) was swift and this time the State Patrol helicopter was sent to the riverfront to circle to determine whether they could see any activity or evidence.

As Twitter expands you will see greater buzz there in response to these noises.  If you search my historical stream (@quick13) you will see a history of how often they have occurred with tweets like “another explosion tonight” dating back over two years.  Last night someone even created a hashtag for them: #bignoisempls.

The explosions follow a pattern, usually beginning at a specific time, like 10pm and if there is a second one, following at a specific time after, like 11pm or midnight. If the first explosion is at midnight then the second explosion is at 1am or 2am. There is always a regular interval pattern, and there are almost always two or three explosions. One explosion is usually louder than the other.  Rarely there are three explosions in one evening.

There is concern there is something dastardly behind these explosions, but after four summers of enduring them, I am beginning to believe there is a more innocuous explanation.  But then again, in today’s world we have too many reasons for doubt, especially when it comes to things being blown up.  Whatever happens, after four years of having disturbed sleep makes me hope that the investigation can be resolved, if not for my own personal health, but that of the foundation of my home, and perhaps the foundation of the fine City of Minneapolis.

18 Comments so far

  1. Ed Kohler (unregistered) on May 16th, 2010 @ 1:47 pm

    Great write-up. The first blast last night was particularly loud at my house near 46th and Lake. I’d love to know what’s going on.

  2. Suzanne (unregistered) on May 17th, 2010 @ 8:54 pm

    Thanks for this article.
    I have heard these booms for the entire 4 years and I am always a little concerned with a…What the heck was THAT !?
    And yes….around 10pm or 11 or 12 or 1am…. that’s the time frame.
    Keep us posted. Otis Ave.

  3. Brent Harring (unregistered) on May 18th, 2010 @ 1:03 pm


    Would you be able to take your notes from the past four years and put it into a table that could show date, day of the week, and time? Aside from that stated time patterns, is there a pattern of calendar dates and/or days of the week? For example, does it only happen between May 1st and September 1st, say, or only on Saturday nights?

    Also, how frequent is this? Over the past four years, how many total occurrences have you noticed?


  4. Okay (unregistered) on May 19th, 2010 @ 12:13 pm

    It’s not really a big deal…

    -42nd and Minnehaha

  5. David (jacc) on May 19th, 2010 @ 12:29 pm

    My first thought was the sewers, but if they’ve already ruled that out then there should be a roundup of local mad scientists.

    Does anyone know how long this has been going on?

  6. chris (unregistered) on May 19th, 2010 @ 3:21 pm

    I live near 36th and Lake, I have heard talk of the explosions for the last couple of years, but I had never heard one. Until last Saturday that is. I heard one of the two, it rattled the window panes of my bedroom at about 11PM or so. The only thing out of my mouth at the moment was “WOW!”, then we heard the helicopter. This was no car backfiring for sure, it was very big (I guess I don’t have to explain any of this to all of you, since you’ve heard these for several years).

    I watched the morning news the following day, read both the St. Paul and the Minneapolis newspaper as well. Nothing. I appreciate your posting here, first confirmation that my wife and I wern’t losing our minds when we heard the boom the other night.

  7. Lorika (unregistered) on May 20th, 2010 @ 10:19 am

    I think we may need to call in Mulder and Scully.

    I’m only mostly joking. What if it is some weird river phenomena? Have they tried putting security cameras in various places (other than just during the RNC)? Perhaps with night vision and motion sensors?

  8. Sdiney (unregistered) on May 21st, 2010 @ 7:15 pm

    Because it happen ever year. Is that possible for the city of Mpls set up a vibration detection device, something like the one detect the earthquake. around the neighborhood and triangulate the source location? So we can put the mystery to rest once for all!

  9. Brooke (unregistered) on May 23rd, 2010 @ 7:23 am

    I used to live next to a rail line were they add and dropped cars from trains. When they do that it makes a HUGE boom that rattles the earth. There’s a rail bridge that crosses the river around 30th street (between the Franklin and Ford Parkway bridges), and connects to an industrial area in Seward. Maybe they’re adding/dropping cars late at night, and it’s echoing down the river? Although that seems like it would violate noise ordinances…My husband wonders if it could be barges connecting, too.

  10. Bill (unregistered) on May 23rd, 2010 @ 9:03 am

    We heard one last night at about 1 am. Shook the house and set off car alarms. We are at 31st and the creek. Every neighbor I spoke to this morning was woken by it. Never heard it sound so close before.

  11. nokohaha (unregistered) on May 23rd, 2010 @ 12:57 pm

    Biggest Bang ever last night heard from my place near Nokomis Avenue and Minnehaha Creeek. Sounds like it could have come from the creek at about 12:30 am. The house shook and I hate to add to the mystery and the rumors here, but when I went down to the creek a little later there was something phosphorescent in the water. It looked like all the fireflys in the area jumped in the creek and were floating down sream.

  12. Ruggy (unregistered) on May 23rd, 2010 @ 8:58 pm

    Has anyone ruled out Boom Island as the cause?

  13. Okay (unregistered) on May 24th, 2010 @ 3:19 am

    When freight cars get released from a train, roll free, and connect to another train, it’s called ‘humping.’ A freight car can be moving walking-speed and still make a massive concussion on impact. The weight and momentum those things carry is massive. I grew up in that area and I always thought the booms in the middle of the night were power generators (probably something I was told as a kid). Years later I finally watched a freight car get humped at the yard I grew up next to and realized that’s what I’d been hearing all those years.

    That said, I don’t really think it would rattle your windows unless you live within a few blocks of the line, or have the windows I had in the 90’s.

    Noise constraints do not trump the railroad. The Mills are the reason any of us live in this city to begin with, and the railroad is the reason THEY exist. It was here first. Be glad they do the majority of their work at night, that’s less time in the morning you have to spend waiting at a crossing.

    Back to the booms. You guys should relax – No one’s been hurt. It’s an interesting thing to throw ideas at, but it really doesn’t warrant police time.

  14. Okay (unregistered) on May 24th, 2010 @ 3:25 am

    Seriously – Security cameras? With motion sensors?

    There’s little enough privacy in the city as it is. Let’s keep what we have and save that kind of talk for things of a serious nature.

  15. Brooke (unregistered) on May 24th, 2010 @ 7:39 am

    Well, there aren’t any heavy rail lines near 31st Ave and Minnehaha Creek, so that rules out that theory.

  16. Brooke (unregistered) on May 24th, 2010 @ 8:14 am

    Eep, disregard my last post. There are heavy rail lines near 31st Ave and Minnehaha Creek. They run along the east side of Highway 55, about 7-8 blocks from 31st Ave.

  17. Green Glass Door » The Mississippi River Mystery Booms Return (pingback) on June 8th, 2010 @ 10:11 am

    […] three. They must be loud–I can hear them very clearly all the way from Powderhorn Park. But this blogger, who lives a couple of blocks away from the river, has been following the explosions more closely […]

  18. Fiona (quick13) on June 13th, 2010 @ 12:00 pm

    Regarding Rail lines & Mills, the police matched up sounds & times and there were not enough correspondences to be able to name that the cause of the repeated sounds, after four years they certainly have enough evidence to have ruled that out. Per the Mpls police there have been some attributed to transformer explosions, some to fireworks, but with sounds this large there is reason to be concerned. There is a scientist that is being consulted & the bomb squad has collected as much evidence as they can but there is still a mystery involving the direct cause. The foundation of my home is shaken each time there is an explosion so these are not innocuous, already have cracked driveway from when they did demolition on Lock & Dam #1, don’t need my house to crumble thanks. Airport noise is being examined as are other causes but to this day the explosions are still under investigation.

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