|Occurred : 3/1/1981 17:45 (Entered as : 03/01/81 17:45)
Reported: 11/30/2012 4:41:32 PM 16:41
Location: McKinleyville, CA
|Large (house-sized), slow moving (45-60 mph), low altitude (< 2,000') meteor witnessed spring 1981 N. CA.
This sighting was of a VERY large, slow moving meteor at an altitude WELL below 5,000 feet, probably below 2,000 feet. Depending on the actual altitude (without a point of reference, judging size and distance is difficult on an object), its size could have been as small as a very large cargo truck or cabin-sized house to a medium to large two-storey house. It was travelling on an almost level track (west to east), at an approximate speed of 45-60 mph. There was no trail of any sort. I could clearly see the distinct cragginess in detail. The coloration varied from an earthy brown to black with lighter splotches of tan to white. I could clearly see scorch marks along the leading surface, trailing back about 1/4-1/3 the length of the cuboidal shape.
There were three distinct jets of green fire. One from the edge between the face facing me and the face oriented toward the ground. The second appeared to come from the edge between the face away from me and the face oriented toward the ground. The third came from the upper face, perhaps along the edge of the face away from me. The three jets were all the same size. The first was in the front third, while the other two were almost all the way to the back. The jet facing me sputtered violently, while the others were more of a flicker. The length of flame was probably about 12 - 18 inches, and perhaps 3 - 5 inches in diameter. As the meteor travelled from left to right it rocked back and forth along all three axes.
I was traveling north on US 101 between Arcata and Mckinleyville, CA. I was approaching the Mad River bridge about 15 - 20 minutes before sundown on a Sunday in Feb or Mar of 1981 (I know it was Sunday because I was on my way to church). The Coastal Range was to my immediate right, the ridge about 1,000 - 2,000 feet above the highway. When I saw the meteor out over the ocean, I rolled down my window to try and hear it, and couldn't. When It passed over the trees out of sight (still ahead of me slightly), I tried to see and hear if there was interaction with the trees along the ridge. Again, I couldn't hear anything, and there was no visible indication of fire or explosion. I interpretted this to mean it had passed at least a couple of hundred feet above the closest foliage, or else the radiant heat would have probably caused a fire. On my return trip an hour-and-a-half later, there was no sign of disturbance. I assumed it struck the ground on the east side of the Central Valley opposite the Redding, CA area, perhaps striking the western slope of the Sierra Nevada Range. I watched the papers, and listened to the radio for other reports of this meteor. Although I told a number of friends in the area, I never reported the sighting, primarily because I didn't know to whom or where to make the report. Even this is not truly the best place to report this, but it is the only one that I know of at this time.
((NUFORC Note: Witness indicates that the date is approximate. PD))