ATHENA — Athena is generally a quiet place.
No four-lane freeways skirt the town of 1,100 people. The residents aren’t bothered by low-flying jetliners or trains blasting by.
Still, sometime between 1:30 a.m. and 2 a.m. on Sunday, according to some residents, a thunderous boom jolted them from slumber.
“It was a loud boom that lasted a long time and rattled the walls,” said Crystal McKee, who lives near the center of town.
“It sounded like they were lighting off dynamite in the park,” said Jason Martinez. He lives across the street from Athena City Park, which sits at the southern edge of town.
The noise shook both from deep sleep.
Many of the people who messaged the East Oregonian or posted to the Athena-Weston News Facebook group also were jolted awake. Some mentioned pets experiencing distress.
“My dog was barking, cat running, woke me outta sound sleep,” wrote one Facebooker. “Heck of an explosion.”
One person initially thought a car had crashed into her house. Others said the concussion shook windows and doors. Someone from Weston heard it too — and another on Weston Mountain. One speculated about a massive crater nearby.
Others heard nothing. The next morning, City Recorder Nancy Barker said she hadn’t heard a thing. Neither had the two women waiting on customers at the Sugar Shack on Main Street.
Some on social media speculated that a transformer could have blown, since when a transformer fails, it sometimes results in a loud boom. However, Pacific Power spokeswoman Lori Wyman said no power interruptions happened that morning.
“The only thing we know of in that area was a structure fire around 9 p.m.,” Wyman said.
The electrical fire in a manufactured home at 353 S. Third St. in Athena started around 8:41 p.m. on Sunday, according to East Umatilla Fire and Rescue’s Dave Baty. The department received nary a call about any earlier explosion, though. Neither did the Umatilla County Sheriff’s Office.
United States Geological Survey maps showed no earthquakes in the area that could have caused the sound. A large canning operation near Athena wasn’t to blame either, according to a spokesman.
So what’s left? Sonic jets? A falling meteor? Alien invaders? Such mysterious booms have baffled other communities in the U.S., most recently in Rhode Island and Ohio.
At least for now, the origin of the explosion noise in Athena remains a mystery.