PLUM CITY, WI -- The thunderous explosion of a meteorite in the skies over Russia Friday injured thousands, and prompted many to wonder if the same thing could happen closer to home.
The truth is dozens of meteorites strike plummet to earth in Minnesota and Wisconsin every year, but their the size of a small rock and typically land in unpopulated areas.
But in Nugget Lake County Parkin Pierce County, Wisconsin there are signs of an enormous meteorite strike eons ago that altered the landscape.
"A lot of people do come and look at it," Scott Schoepp, who manages the 752-acre park near Plum City, told KARE.
It's a geological formation known locally at Blue Rock, and it hints strongly that the park was once the scene of acryptoexplosion with the force of a hydrogen bomb.
"Scientists get giddy about it," Schoepp remarked.
"They'resay 'Where's Blue Rock?' and the race down here to see it. Somestay here for hours poking around."
One of those scientists is Bill Cordua, a geologist and professor emeritus atthe University of Wisconsin River Falls.
Cordua told KARE in 2004 that the collision that occured there 450 million years ago was comparable to two football stadiums slamming into the earth ata speed of 60,000 miles per hour.
The exposed rock face in Nugget Park isthe strongest piece of evidence, not because of its color but because of its orientation.
"Typically in this area the rocks are all flat,but here they're all slanted and tilted," Schoepp explained.
The theory is that the force of the explosion pushed several layers of rock down and to the sides, leaving a deformation that is recognizable because the huge slabs of dolomite limestone are positioned at angle rather than lying horizontally.
But ifyou fly over that area now expecting to see theclassic crater, you'll be disappointed.Eons of erosion have erased most of the outward signs of an event Cordua named theRock Elm Disturbance.
"People will drive out here expecting to see this huge hole in the ground, as if it's still smoldering," Schoepp laughed.
"But you've got to realize that was450 million years ago and a lot has changed around here since then."
The fact thatyou can walk on it is one of those changes. At the time of theprobably meteorite strike, that part of western Wisconsin was covered by a shallow ocean. Some has surmised that the seawater probably softened the impact of the giant flaming bolder.
These days a cataclysmic visitor from outer space would not be too welcome in this part of Wisconsin. But at Nugget Lake County Park they're always happy to see people, and to show them whatthey've dubbed their scenic "underlooks."
"Yes, we allow Minnesotans here," Schoeppjoked, "For a short time and that's about it!"