Sioux City "Fireball" Still a Mystery

Officials may never know if the flaming object shooting through the sky Wednesday afternoon was in fact a meteor.

"We can't confirm at all what it is," said Todd Heitkamp, warning and coordination meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Sioux Falls. "There's suspicion that it was a meteorite, but we have no confirmation whatsoever."

Heitkamp said no one was monitoring meteorite activity over Sioux City at the time the ball of fire was spotted.

Around 2 p.m. Wednesday the Woodbury County Communications Center received reports of something falling from the sky. Communications center director Glenn Sedivy said callers talked about a "fire ball," but they were not able to give a good description of its location. The calls were forwarded to emergency responders.

Sioux City Police Lt. Marti Reilly said he heard sightings of something coming out of the sky east of Merrill. Officers weren't dispatched because police could not confirm the flaming object landed in Sioux City, he said.

Authorities at the Plymouth County Sheriff's Office said a caller south of Hinton told dispatchers they thought they saw something fall from the sky by Hinton. A motorist traveling on Highway 75 also reported seeing a flaming object in the sky a mile west and a mile north of Merrill.

Gary Junge, emergency management coordinator for Plymouth County, said he heard of reports of meteor sightings from Sergeant Bluff to Sioux County.

Heitkamp said meteor sightings are not uncommon.

"We have meteorites that hit the atmosphere all the time," he said. "This one here, if it was a meteorite, just happened to be large enough to reach further into the atmosphere than what most of them do before burning up."

Meteoroids are tiny particles about the size of a grain of sand. They are usually residue from comets. If a meteoroid encounters the Earth's upper atmosphere, it vaporizes in an event called a meteor. If the object survives and hits the ground, it is referred to as a meteorite.

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