Meteorite Was a Ball of Fire Coming Through the Sky, Witness Recalls

A meteor streaked across the sky and exploded over Russia's Ural Mountains with the power of an atomic bomb.


I awoke this morning expecting to write a column for Fox News Latino on mixed martial arts. Instead, I found out that a meteorite crashed in my hometown of Chelyabinsk, Russia had been hit by a meteorite.

Now, meteors hit the earth all the time, they just don’t make the headlines. So when news wires started flashing that upwards of 1,000 people had been injured, it got me worried. Friends and family still very much reside there in great numbers. After a series of phone calls it emerged that everyone was fine. Thankfully.

My mother’s school friend relayed that at the moment of impact every window around her was blown out, car sirens wailed and she thought that a war had started.

But stories began to pour in about how truly frightening and disorientating an event like this must have been. My mother’s school friend, Irina Vitlugina, relayed that at the moment of impact every window around her was blown out, car sirens wailed and she thought that a war had started. I guess the residual memories of the Cold War are hard to wash away. More sobering was the fact that, according to her, not only was there no prior warning but nothing was announced or reported on local television for a whole two hours.

The meteor – estimated to be about 10 tons – entered the Earth's atmosphere at a hypersonic speed of at least 33,000 mph and shattered into pieces about 18-32 miles above the ground.

It released several kilotons of energy above the region and, according to NASA, it was about 15 49 feet wide before it hit the atmosphere, about one-quarter the size of the passing asteroid.

“We were driving on the road when we saw the meteorite. It was literally a ball of fire that came through the sky. It was so frightening," my aunt said. 

"When we got to Chelyabinsk, it was destruction. The university, schools and some houses were hit hard. Some walls and roofs were torn off. Apparently there are now 3000 homes that need new windows. One apartment building we saw had a huge crack through it," she told me. "Thank god it hit the lake and not the city.”

Thanks indeed. As amazing as my hometown of Chelyabinsk is, it’s also home of an atomic waste treatment facility as well as a nuclear power plant. It could have been worse. Instead, with no fatalities and everyone seemingly okay, they’ll have quite the story to tell for years to come.

With additional reporting by The Associated Press.

Igor Guryashkin is a freelance journalist whose extensive work on combat sports has been featured in ESPN The Magazine and He splits his time between New York and Louisville. Follow him on Twitter: @iguryashkin.

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