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'Boom' town of Clintonville gets sensors -- and 'I Survived the 1.5' T-shirts

Scientists say a series of earthquakes are behind the mysterious booms plaguing Clintonville, Wisconsin, but some locals aren't so sure. WTMJ's Annie Scholz reports.

When the town of Clintonville, Wis., declared that mysterious booms scaring residents were tied to small tremors, they didn't convince everyone -- not even every quake scientist. So to be sure, they had the sound analyzed (click to hear it) and brought in seismic sensors.

Moreover, what with all the media attention, they've even decided to make the most of their celebrity moment by selling "I Survived the 1.5" (as in earthquake magnitude) T-shirts.

So what are the sensors showing?

"We did record an earthquake Thursday night," Greg Waite, a Michigan Technological University geologist told msnbc.com on Monday. "It was very small, less than magnitude 0.5," he said, but "there were several calls to the authorities in Clintonville at about that time reporting booming sounds."

City Administrator Lisa Kuss told msnbc.com that residents continue to be concerned "because we keep having smaller events."

On March 22, Kuss declared "the mystery is solved" after the U.S. Geological Survey detected a 1.5-magnitude tremor at 12:16 a.m. on March 20 in Clintonville, population 4,500.

"In other places in the United States, a 1.5 earthquake would not be felt," she said a town meeting. "But the type of rock Wisconsin has transmits seismic energy very well."

Listen to audio of a March 24 'boom'
Town map of where booms were reported heard

Some residents refuse to believe the booms are from the 1.5-magnitude quake and smaller tremors, and they have some scientific support.

Paul Caruso, a USGS scientist, noted that while earthquakes can trigger an underground sonic boom, he didn't think the recent quake was large enough to do that.

"To be honest, I'm skeptical that there'd be a sound report associated with such a small earthquake, but it's possible," he told The Associated said shortly after the March 20 quake was detected.

Last Thursday, four seismometers and four infrasound sensors were installed to see if the sounds can be tied definitively to tremors.

"The USGS will issue authoritative earthquake location and magnitude information for all future earthquakes," Waite said. "If the swarm continues, I hope to be able to say something about why they are occurring and how they are generating audible sound."

Clintonville, for its part, hopes to make a little "civic improvement" cash out of its saga. Kuss estimated that by Monday morning some 500 T-shirts had been ordered, some even from out of state. The town clears about $5 a shirt.

"The profits from these shirts will be used to beautify or enhance something in our City as determined by the Mayor at a later date," the town says on its website. "This is not meant to make light of a serious situation but to show that we, as a community, came together to get through the events."

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