BY O.J. EARLY
A possible answer is emerging as to what is causing the loud booms reported for more than two weeks in Greene County.
Tannerite, a type of legal exploding target, may be the source of the deep rumbles that have reportedly thundered across sections of the county.
Local law enforcement officials, however, remain deeply skeptical that Tannerite is responsible for producing the reported sounds.
There have been reports of similar loud booms from across the U.S., and dozens of news reports have surfaced charging that Tannerite is responsible for the explosion-type sound.
Locally, after a Greeneville Sun news story was posted on Jan. 12 to the newspaper's Facebook page regarding the reported loud booms, several individuals commented on the story on the Facebook page, and a few mentioned Tannerite as the source of the loud noises.
Deborah Hardin Chandley wrote, "It's exploding targets [that] everyone is having fun with. Just look it up."
Tutie Dooley commented, "Yeah, it's exploding targets. They shoot them here in the South Central area about 1/2 mile away from my house, and you can feel the pressure from them if you are outside ... crazy!"
A.J. Jones also commented, "They are called Tannerites."
Tannerite, which is trademarked, is described on the product's website as a "binary explosive used primarily as a target for firearms practice."
Similar to black powder, Tannerite is a mix of ammonium nitrate and several other materials. The product is patented, and is often used by shooting clubs to provide exploding targets.
When it explodes, a Tannerite target can sometimes be heard and felt more than a mile away, according to several reports.
Tannerite is legal to purchase in the United States, according to the product's website.
CANNON, BURNS SKEPTICAL
Greeneville Police Chief Terry Cannon said he doesn't believe Tannerite is, or even could be, responsible for the booms heard recently across Greeneville and Greene County.
If the exploding targets were the source of the rumbles, Cannon said, reports should come in that reflect those targets being shot with a firearm.
"Every time they [callers] have seen nothing, there has been no smoke. If it was something like that [Tannerite}, it would be putting off smoke, we would hear the gunshot," Cannon said. "I just don't think that is it."
Greene County Sheriff Steve Burns also said he doubts that Tannerite could produce the type of sounds that callers are reporting.
"Based on what we've heard, it would take a tremendous amount to echo that far," the sheriff said earlier this week, after talking with several officers in his department.
STORE OWNER: POSSIBLE
According to David Arrington, owner of White Sands Guns and Ammo, Tannerite is definitely capable of producing the crashing booms that could be heard for at least a mile.
"We've shot it out here," Arrington said, although he added that it has been at least a year since Tannerite was used at his gun range.
When asked if Tannerite was capable of producing booms similar to what is being reported, Arrington replied, "Definitely."
"It'll blow a hole in the ground," he said, describing the explosion as making an "earth-shattering boom."
Arrington does not sell Tannerite at his store, he said.
The local Walmart also does not carry Tannerite, an employee in the hunting/outdoor department said earlier this week.
The product can be difficult to find, but is capable of producing a thundering boom, the employee said.
News stories alleging that Tannerite is the source for the loud booms have been published in several states. Some reports directly link the resounding noises to exploding Tannerite targets.
WKBW-TV in Buffalo, N.Y., reported in early January that a New York man was responsible for a thundering sound after mixing and shooting three six-pound boxes of Tannerite.
On Jan. 18, the Hampton County Guardian, published in South Carolina, reported that Tannerite was used when dozens of citizens called local authorities to report what sounded like explosions.
And, as reported in late-December by the Oconee Patch, in Georgia, the Oconee County Sheriff asked Georgia residents in his county to be careful when using Tannerite after deputies responded to "reports of multiple explosions" when Tannerite was used.
Even so, a good deal of uncertainty remains as to what is causing the loud blasts.
"At this point, nobody seems to know," said Jeffrey Braun, a physicist at the University of Evansville in Indiana.
His comments were reported Jan. 10 in the Digital Journal, an online news organization.
"The geologists say it's not in the ground. The Air Force says it's not in the air. The astronomers say it's not from space. So we're running out of options."