MiR 076 – Chelyabinsk Meteor Explosion – Special Report

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These are the actual chilling sounds heard by the residents of Chelyabinsk, Russia on the morning of February 15, 2013 and the sounds were the result of a meteor exploding over this city of 1.3 million. I can safely say that the sounds and for that matter the videos are all accurate representations of what happened, because I was there when it happened.

Welcome to a special edition of the Mark in Russia Broadcast. You should definitely go to my website at http://www.markinrussia.com in order to see photos and video of the meteor explosion and also some of the resultant damage.

Usually when people listen to my intro where is says, “Broadcasting from the belly of the bear in Chelyabinsk, Russia” many folks would not have heard of the city of Chelyabinsk. After front page all day coverage all over the world on the 15th, that may have changed.

There are some events which occur in people’s lives that we remember exactly where we were and what we were doing at the time that it happened. I believe that these events can be counted on the fingers of one hand and therefore, the older you are; the harder it is for an event to fall into this category.

My list would be based on an American perspective, but since I’ve been in Russia for the past 11 years, my list would now also have a Russia flavor to it.

On my fingers I count the assassination of John Kennedy, the first man on the moon, the attack on the World Trade Center and just now added the meteor explosion over the city of Chelyabinsk

I’d like to relate my story of that morning, which is really just representative of many stories of that day.

It was 9:20 A.M. on a nice February Friday; my wife had left the house at 9:00 for her 35 minute commute to work via public transport. I was shaving, preparing for my own departure to work at 9:30. My daughters were playing in their room and my father in-law was sitting in the kitchen, he was there to watch over my daughters who had the day off from school because of quarantine of their class due to flu.

As I was looking in the mirror shaving, with the bathroom door open behind me, the corridor suddenly lit up almost white in intensity. It was rather quick and I actually thought that a light bulb in the corridor had blown causing the flash. I finished shaving and when I came out of the bathroom a few minutes later, I saw both of my daughters staring out the door of their room onto the glass enclosed balcony and my father in law staring out the kitchen window. It was only at that point that it dawned on me that the flash came from outside. It was only due to chance that my children and their grandfather weren’t hurt at this point. The Shock wave then hit with incredible force and with incredible noise. Later we would learn that this release of energy was 20 times the power of the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima. Now, all over the city I suspect that there were hundreds of thousands of people looking out their windows at the condensation trail where a meteor had exploded. What all of these people weren’t thinking about, and I include myself in this group, was that there would be a shock wave which would hit us minutes later due to the difference in the speed of light (the flash) and the speed of sound (the boom).

I had experienced the effects of a sonic boom before while watching an Airforce Thunderbirds pilot break the sound barrier just over the runway at an airshow. At the time this startled the hell out of me and I could actually feel it almost pass through me. It was very cool.

Feeling the effects of this shockwave from the meteor was much different and also quite unpleasant. The main thing that I noticed was the sharp pain in my ears as the air pressure changed hugely in the fraction of a second. If it went on for longer than that, I’m sure that everyone in this city would be walking around with blood coming from our ears.

I mentioned that we were lucky and I’ll explain why. It appears to me, after surveying some of the damage in the city, that the worst hit areas were those with a direct line of sight to the area in the sky where the meteor exploded, which makes since when you understand that this is a shock wave.

From what I could see, the path of the meteor was pretty much north to south and the parts of buildings which seemed to have the most damage were those facing north or south. It wasn’t only these, so my theory is not bulletproof at all. Our Apartment has two balconies on opposite sides or our building. One faces east and one faces west. Because of that we weren’t facing directly in the direction of the blast. Remember again, the most natural thing in the world after just seeing a blinding light coming from outdoors, is to run to the window and try to see what may have caused it. Now imagine an extremely powerful shock wave moving at the speed of sound suddenly hitting your windows or doors. This is where and how many people were injured. The glass did not crack and fall, no, it blew in in a hail of small very fast moving shards which acted as razor blades on peoples exposed skin.

Windows Damaged in Blast

Windows Damaged in Blast

The shock waves were more than one, but the first one was the most powerful. I looked at the windows that enclosed my other balcony and the wall of windows was actually bending in about to burst. I opened the door leading onto my balcony and immediately my ears and eyes felt ready to burst due to the immediate change of pressure on the balcony, but I also think that this one stupid, unintentional move probably saved the glass wall on my balcony from blowing apart. Almost exploded my eyeballs and eardrums, but what the hell, it saved my glass.

Well, at this point the actual show was over; it was that quick, yet the memories of these few minutes won’t go away anytime soon.

Zinc Factory Roof Collapse

Zinc Factory Roof Collapse

As many of you know, at times like this your first thoughts land on the safety of loved ones. I knew that my daughters and father in-law were OK, because I was right there with them at the time, but I was very worried suddenly about my wife. She was only about halfway through her commute when the meteor exploded and I couldn’t imagine trying to keep a car on the road when blinded by a bright white light. I tried to call her on her cell phone, only to find that the cell phone service was not working. Our landline was working, so I called work and asked the office manager to have my wife call me as soon as she got there. At that point I was also able to confirm that the same effects were felt at the office, which was when I first decided that it had been a meteor strike. Anyhow, within about 10 minutes I got an SMS from my wife telling me to watch for damage on my way to work. So I knew that she was OK and that I could leave for work.

You know, a quick change in air pressure warns animals and sometimes humans of such dangers as an approaching tornado, and I can testify that it certainly has an effect on people. People I would see on the way to the bus stop and also on the bus were scared and not sure what to expect next. The volume of talking as people were sharing their stories was at a volume more than 4 times the normal sound level. As I got closer to work and was passing the large university there, South Ural State University, I was amazed at the glass damage. The sidewalks were full of broken glass and looking at the buildings it seemed that every forth window was gone, and by that I don’t mean only the glass was broken; I mean that even the frames were gone. At this point the people walking about looked dazed and undoubtedly were.

When I arrived at work, the north facing classrooms and offices had windows and frames blown out and even suspended ceilings were hanging down and the metal supports twisted. A television mounted on a wall mount lay in rubble on the floor beneath its former stand. Automatic glass sliding doors on the bank next door had been ripped off of the track and lay leaning against the windows, although they were not broken.

This was a very significant event, much more so than even the people who experienced it realized at the time. Within hours the rest of the world was waking up to and learning about what had happened that morning in Chelyabinsk.

Window Damage at University

Window Damage at University

As usual in cases such as this, Chelyabinsk will be part of the world news cycle for about 24 hours. It does amaze me how resilient people are here when it comes to adversity and I respect this. For the past 6 days the major story on the US news cycles has been a cruise ship which lost power and has been stuck out in the Gulf of Mexico, now in all fairness, the toilets have not been working, and the passengers have to use some sort of disposable bags which are collected by the crew. There are even complaints that although there is decent food for the passengers, that it isn’t what they had hoped for. For 6 breathless days, the entire country via the media, has been breathlessly awaiting their arrival back in Alabama or somesuch place, where it is being towed by tugboats. The media awaited the passengers to debark and then descended upon them in order to hear about their grueling ordeal. They were compared to the survivors of hurricane Katrina.

So, these are considered to be heroes of the worst depravities possible to inflict upon a human being. I’m embarrassed by all of this and having to explain to foreigners as to why exactly they are treated like suffering martyrs.

Perhaps they should check out being under an exploding meteor when anywhere from 1200 to 1500 people have been treated at local hospitals. An estimated one million square feet of glass has been destroyed, therefore exposing thousands and thousands to the outside temperatures of below zero F and there is no food buffet when you are hungry. If you go to my site and watch some of the videos, you’ll see an actual blinding explosion of a meteor which gave that old nuclear bomb just went off look, what you really need to notice though is that these Russians didn’t change their driving, not even pulling over. That’s tough, not bland food at a buffet.

Personally, I’d rather be inconvenienced by shitting in a bag than take a meteor hit. Man Up You People!

Suspended Ceilings Took a Hit

Suspended Ceilings Took a Hit

Also, as part of the 24-hour news cycle, you need to have the “experts” there to explain away an unprecedented event. First I want to say that I like Fox News a lot, but they won the prize for the biggest pinhead expert for this story. I don’t remember the woman’s name, but she was just there as some “eye candy” who was better to look at than some dude in a bowtie who might actually know something. Now, first the experts on all stations need to establish their credentials, and how do they do this? Why by giving us the following information, lest we confuse things and look stupid, so here we go! It is an asteroid while it is still in space, it is then called a meteor as it descends to the surface and finally, when it hits the surface of the earth it is now a meteorite. So, by letting us in on this secret expert knowledge we have now advanced to Astronomy 101. Anyhow, we’ll listen to this “Expert” from Fox News explain that the only reason that the Chelyabinsk Meteor strike is so newsworthy, is because of all of the photos and videos. That it really isn’t that rare. She forgets to mention that never in recorded history have so many people been injured in such a situation, or that of meteors of this size which strike the earth on average of once every 10 years, that it has never happened in a city of 1.3 million. Actually, it typically falls into the ocean (75% of the earth), or an uninhabited area of our planet. But no, listening to this expert, this one is only unusual because of YouTube.

OK, I’m going to now play the sound clip and make another couple of acid tongued comments after.

Well, where to start with the “deidiotfying” of this expert (I just invented a new word!) First of all, she apparently feels that NASA falls somewhere between Santa and God on a scale of knowing what is happening here on earth and throughout the solar system. In other words, our expert is confused. Asteroids of the size of the Chelyabinsk meteor, which are really not that big, are tracked by NASA or NORAD and they follow up to 10% of them, not 90% of them. OK, maybe she just reversed the figures and isn’t actually a pinhead, but wait for it………………”you know, NASA does track these things and has the capability of changing their course if they get too close………………Lasers?………………Yeah,… lasers and other ways”. Just to make you all aware, the game of asteroids was just a game, Armageddon was just a movie and we have NO WAY of preventing these asteroids from hitting the earth!! I mean, this idiot actually pisses me off, rather than just amusing me with her empty headed hijinks. She implies that this one just “snuck through” and had it been one of the other 90%, NASA would have just zapped it with a laser, or perhaps used some sort of Vulcan mind control movement.

Fox News! I like you, so why are you embarrassing the US internationally with this pinhead expert.

Well, not to be outdone by the Americans, here in Russia we also have huge idiots. In this case he is the head of one of the Russian political factions. His name is Vladimir Zhiranovskiy, not whatever mangled version of his name that Fox News comes up with.

Let’s listen to what this baffoon has to say, just to show that the Mark in Russia Broadcast is an international equal opportunity showcase of idiots. Wait a minute, that makes me sound as if I’m part of the conga line of idiots also, oh what the hell!

From every bad experience you hope that some goodness flows from it and in the case of the meteor explosion, I feel this was the case. I’ve heard of large groups of volunteer window repair people who have been trying to help people get their windows fixed again, after all, it is winter. I’ve read that the governor has promised to get all of the windows fixed in the city which were damaged and to do this at no cost to the owners. In fact, window repair people and glaziers have been brought in specifically from other regions of Russia to help with this. In fact, more than 20,000 people have been mobilized including volunteers to help people cover their broken windows, sweep up the glass and help feed when necessary. The windows have been promised to be fixed within a week.

The estimated power of this blast has now been set at equal to 20 atomic bombs! Fortunately the “epicenter” of the explosion was about 40 kilometers about the earth’s surface. Had it been closer, it would be hard to even imagine the damage.

More than 4000 buildings in Chelyabinsk were damaged by the shock wave, including many schools and more than 30 health care centers. Most schools were already scheduled to have a week vacation the following week, so now there will be a week to complete the repairs.

Most people are still sorting through their memories of this event, trying to make some sense of things. Things here are done differently than in the States. I suspect in the States the schools would be swarmed by teams of psychologists trying to “help” the children cope with their feelings. Here they don’t spend too much time trying to explore the feelings, but rather as I did with my own children when they said that they were scared, I simply explained without much fanfare that sometimes a big rock from space will fall to earth and explode before it hits the ground. I also explained that this is extremely rare and that they were luckier than most people in the world, because they were able to be 1st hand witnesses to this event. This removed the fear factor and changed the whole way they viewed the event; now in a positive sense. The fact of the matter is; I told them exactly how I view the event.

I, like so many other here had moments of fear, but the biggest fear was not being able to get hold of a loved one to make sure that they were alright. For me, the event had the extra pleasant surprise to hear from those close to me in the US and other countries and even people who I’ve not been so good about keeping in touch with. It is a very sobering and good feeling to know that there are others elsewhere in the world, who care enough about you to try whatever they can to hear that you are OK. So, one positive to come out of the negative was a positive affirmation of the goodness inherent in most people and if the truth be told…………… It was freakin awesome!!!! Seriously, many people try to do something that not many other have tried before. In my case, I feel pretty cool about the fact that I experienced a meteor explosion and also a tremendous shock wave that tore windows and doors apart. That I was witness to and felt the power of a force equal to 20 atomic bombs and lived to tell the story without any injury.

I pray for and hope the best for all of those injured in this event and for those, especially the elderly, who are living in less than ideal conditions because of damage and the outside temperatures.

I forget, did I mention that it was really awesome? Have you been subject to a meteor explosion before? No? Oh, did I mention that I have?

Well, thanks for listening to this special edition of the Mark in Russia broadcast. You should check out the website at http://www.markinrussia.com in order to see a lot of photos and videos of the actual meteor and also the damage.

Come back again next week for a new episode, but until that time, GoodBye!

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