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2014, January 14: Ice Chunks Fall From Cloudless Sky

On January 14, 2014, visitors to Annadel State Park in California, USA, had a scary brush with two chunks of ice that fell out of a clear blue sky.

Ice
One of the chunks.
[Larger version here]

        Ron Schuelke, who had been riding his mountain bike in the park, was resting on a dam near Lake Ilsanjo with another biker, Ryan O'Harren, near a group of four female hikers who were sitting at a pinic table, when everyone heard -- and O'Harren claimed he saw -- an object crash through trees and slam into the ground about 200 feet away from them. Seconds later, a second object slammed down around 100 feet from the group. O'Harren saw that both objects were white in color, and judged that the second was about the size of a volleyball. According to Schuelke, they had sounded "similar to that of a kite being yanked strongly from the sky."

        Upon investigation, the group found the objects were chunks of ice with a sort of dirty snow color to them. One had broken into smaller pieces within the dent it left in the ground, but was estimated to have been 18 inches across and 2 to 3 inches deep. The second chunk of ice was 4 to 5 inches long and 2 to 3 inches deep. One of the ice chunks had a distinct hole in it, as shown by a picture the two bikers took [above]. They were quite sure that, given the impact the two ice chunks made, either would have been fatal if they had struck a person.

        O'Harren is a pilot with a company called JetBlue, and was aware of the stories about frozen blocks of toilet water falling from planes... but he quickly pointed out that toilet water is tinted blue by disinfectant, and these two chucks were not. His own theory was that the chucks of ice had fallen from a plane on its approach to Oakland International Airport, but that the ice orignated from the plane's sinks and galleys. Greywater from these sources is normally released from a heated pipe on the underside of the plane. The pipe is kept heated to prevent the water from freezing to it as it is released; but if the heating element is not working, the water can form a chuck of ice around the pipe that falls off as the plane descends into warmer air. With this in mind, O'Harren suggested that the hole in the one ice chuck was where it was originally attached to the pipe.