Special Reports

SPECIAL REPORT: Tornillo residents perplexed by mysterious booms heard across town

SPECIAL REPORT Tornillo residents perplexed by mysterious booms heard across town

EL PASO, Texas - The calls began coming into the ABC-7 newsroom last year.

Tornillo residents were concerned about a loud booming sound. The calls were sporadic, and there were plenty of theories.

"I think it's a crash or something on the freeway. I don't know," Tornillo resident Jaime Gandara said.

Kadesh Wright works at the Dollar General in Tornillo. She said the boom stopped her in her tracks.

"I jumped. I mean i looked up and was looking out the windows, and then I actually went outside to look around to see if I could see anything. I didn't see anything," Wright said.

Others said they could hear it at their school.

"It was loud. We can feel it in the portable," Jacqueline Gonzalez said. "We felt it, yeah. it was bad."

There's less than 2,000 people in Tornillo, but after spending a couple of hours in the town, it was clear that several people were perplexed by these sounds.

"I know four miles out of Tornillo to the East, people are saying that they could feel it there, and they also got up and went outside to see if they could see what it was," Wright said. "In town here people are asking, wanting to know. There are no answers."

ABC-7 reached out to the El Paso County Sheriff's Office for answers. The sheriff's office said a group of scientists from UTEP was conducting research in a facility in between Fabens and Tornillo.

We contacted UTEP and they put us in contact with Dr. Galen Kaip, the director of Seismic Facility.

"When they hear the boom, those are explosives," Kaip said. We're doing scientific and engineering research testing out there."

Kaip leads a team of students in conducting seismic research.

"We use the energy from an explosion, whether a hammer or an explosion or weight drop or whatever, to put energy into the ground," Kaip said. "That energy is converted to elastic waves and basically when they hit layers of different density, the strength and speed reflected back and are recorded by instruments that determine what's underneath the ground."

The data collected can then be used for a variety of things like helping make buildings more earthquake resistant, or determining the quality of water underground.

"We'd been doing research around the world, but we decided that to be able to do our job better, we needed to have a facility where we could do testing close by so that we can improve on what we do out in the field," Kaip said.

UTEP would not disclose the location of the facility for safety reasons. Researchers do not want people in the area when they are setting off explosives.


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