Michael Totten

Pacific Northwest Fireball

I went sailing on the Columbia River this weekend with my friends Jeremy and Megan. After we tied up the boat and headed back toward the car I saw what first looked like a typical shooting star streaking across the early night sky. Then it got bigger. A lot bigger. And brighter. A lot brighter.
oregon_meteor.jpg

(Image captured from home video)
“Hey,” I said to Jeremy, “it’s a shooting st…HOLY SHIT LOOK AT THAT!”
“Whoa!” Jeremy said as he looked up.
It didn’t burn out, as shooting stars almost always do. It just kept going, both across and down the sky.
“Where?” Megan said. She was standing far off to our right and couldn’t see anything through the trees.
It finally vanished, either because it passed over the horizon or was about to impact on the ground.
Jeremy and I looked at each other, our heads slightly cocked. We were listening for the explosion. Nothing.
“Do you think it was a meteor?” Jeremy said.
“Oh yeah. What else would it be? It was way too big and bright and fast to be an airplane.”
We went home and checked the news. Sure enough, it was a meteor. It startled people all over the Pacific Northwest in a radius that stretched from Northern California to Canada. Portland was in the exact center of that radius. It was literally right over our heads.
Just a few days ago Mt. St. Helens had its biggest eruption since I was a child. Then a huge flaming rock fell out of the sky. Both happened during the same week within eye-shot of Portland. Forest fires are next. We’ve had almost no rain at all for two months. Our rainy season just vanished. A few days ago Washington declared a state of emergency. Feels like disaster blogging (with photos, of course) might be on the agenda this summer. We’re a tinderbox here, and we’re supposed to be soggy and dripping.