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Giant fireball turns heads in Becker

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You can excuse Robin Turnwall for thinking it might be a sign from God.

The rural Richwood man was on his way home from a church meeting late Wednesday evening when he saw a spectacular fireball light up the night sky.

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"That was really cool," he said. "I have never seen anything that amazing. It had orange and yellow and a little reddish stuff in it. It was obviously not totally combusted when coming down."

The fireball was much larger than a typical meteor, and as it passed over Minnesota it had "a really long tail," Turnwall said.

He was driving home on North Buffalo Lake Road when he saw the fireball. "It illuminated the clouds," he said, thinking "that was not a near miss, it was a direct hit," and then, half-jokingly, "I hope Frazee's still there."

Turnwall was far from alone in the sighting.

The fireball lit up the sky -- and the phone lines -- across six states, including Minnesota, on Wednesday night, the National Weather Service says.

The Becker County Sheriff's Department received three calls around 10 p.m. concerning the bright light in the sky.

The weather service received numerous reports of a fireball or meteor streaking across the sky between 10 and 10:30 p.m. across Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, northern Missouri, Illinois and Indiana.

The fireball was seen over the northern sky, moving from west to east, according to the Quad Cities weather service office in Davenport, Iowa, which has Web links to video of the fireball.

The apparent meteor broke up into smaller pieces and disappeared well before it reached the horizon, the weather service said.

It wasn't known whether any of the meteor hit the ground.

According to the weather service, the sighting coincided with a meteor shower that is currently underway.

The shower, called "Gamma Virginids," began on April 4 and is expected to last through April 21, with the peak activity occurring Wednesday and Thursday.

The weather service's Davenport office also reported: "Several reports of a prolonged sonic boom were received ... along with shaking of homes, trees and various other objects including wind chimes. As of late Wednesday evening, it is unknown whether any portion of this meteorite hit the ground."

Two videos captured the meteor's bright light and what looks like an explosion, as the meteor broke apart.

"I don't know if it was a once-in-a-lifetime thing," Turnwall said, "but it was worth the wait."

(This story includes information from The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead)

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