An unexplained mystery boom rattled a neighborhood in Council Bluffs, Iowa around 5:20 PM on the night of December 20. The interesting characteristic of this incident is a reflection in a vehicle window. I have a guess at what it was.

If you are a regular reader of my content, you’ll know that I have a fascination for mystery sounds and lights. I published a comprehensive look at Mystery Booms in 2021 on my Spooky Geology site and republished it here. Last year, I took a look at a collection of booms in the news for 2022 and came to some general conclusions about what caused them.

Today, I was curious about this event in Iowa. The explosion occurred in the very early evening, just about when it was getting dark. It made a very big noise. Police were called to investigate and didn’t find anything. There were also no signs of this being a meteor explosion or an electrical line explosion. So what was it?

Home video surveillance cameras have been a huge benefit to attempting to explain these mystery booms because they reveal flashes of light and direction as well as pinpointing the time. Sometimes, multiple recordings can allow triangulation or, at least, identify a general area.

While this latest Council Bluffs incident did not have a camera pointing in the direction of the boom, a big clue was still found in the video as a vehicle was parked facing the explosion, and you can see a rising fireball in the windshield reflection. See the entire video in this news report.

Notice the light streak on the car windshield.

The light very much appears to be an explosion from the ground upward. One witness noted that it sort of looked like a firework but wasn’t.

The road where the camera was located and on which the witness was travelling is a fairly steep hill. There are some wooded areas around and people have decently-sized backyards. Someone blew something up.

From the evidence available, I’m going to guess that this was a directed tannerite explosion that took place on an area at a slightly higher elevation from where the camera and vehicle were located. The exact address of the camera was not given but locals familiar with the neighborhood should be able to get a good idea of where this came from estimating the line of sight from the vehicle location. There might be a good chance whoever did this will try it again.

There are videos all over YouTube about how to create dramatic tannerite explosions by using household products and containers (like a thick-sided wooden box) to direct the flame upwards instead of blowing out at the bottom. I’m going to guess someone was doing this experiment at dusk this Wednesday evening. The explosion would not leave a visible trace unless you inspected the property.

Screenshot from a YouTube video showing an upward directed tannerite explosion.

There is no doubt that people are setting off tannerite explosions all over the U.S. You can readily buy the stuff, mix it yourself, and have a blast, so to speak. While this kind of explosion in a residential neighborhood is dangerous and probably against local ordinances, unless your neighbor reports you, anyone playing around with tannerite is likely to get away with it.

If anyone has additional information, please feel free to get in touch.

3 thoughts on “Mystery boom from December 2023, Council Bluffs, Iowa

  1. I don’t personally have any objection, but I remain surprised that tannerite is simply available for purchase by anyone anywhere, more or less.

    1. It skirts a restriction for explosives, apparently, because the two constituents separately are not dangerous or explosive, you have to mix them together yourself. And, they require a high velocity impact to ignite. Therefore, if you drop it, it doesn’t explode. People are adding flammable material to the explosions to make them bigger. So, because it’s DIY, and meant for explosive targets (a valid use for a non-average person), it’s only regulated in two states as far as I can tell – Maryland and California.

  2. Should be known that fireworks sales are in a legal for use on New Year’s Eve in the Omaha/Council Bluffs metro during the winter holiday season along with the binary explosive targets. We get “booms” at random all the time in the area due to the effectively unenforced ordinances. Offutt Air Force Base is also a source of constant booms due to various aircraft operations.

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