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The mysterious booming sound that’s been rocking a New Jersey town is apparently the result of a homemade “hail cannon” designed by a vineyard owner to protect his crop from bad weather, he and police told The Post.
Rob Butkowski of Hammonton said he’s been firing off the sonically loud cone-shaped contraption — which blasts shock waves up to the sky — to break up cloud formations and scare away birds that nibble his grapes.
“It sounds like a jet going by,” said Butkowski, 34. “It’s like the loudest thing you’ve ever heard just blew through your chest — it’s amazing.”
Butkowski, who works in construction, said he made the 16-foot-long machine “from scratch” using scrap metal from street signs and other objects because he was “bored from all this COVID s–t.”
Using directions he found online, he rigged a mixture of acetylene and oxygen in a propane tank to create an explosion that blasts from the barrel to keep icy weather at bay.
For weeks, he’s been firing off the thunderous shock-waves — which travel 30,000 feet in a 1.5 mile radius — above his five-acre plot, he said.
“You can see the split clouds apart,” he said. “You can hear it rip.”
Hammonton Chief of Police Kevin Friel said the cannon is responsible for the mystery boom that has baffled and frustrated nearby residents — many of whom have reported the sound to local cops.
But the gadget is likely perfectly legal, Friel said.
“It doesn’t fire projectiles, and it’s not a firearm or an explosive,” Friel said, adding there are no plans to stop him. “It uses gas — and that’s it.”
The only possible legal issue would be a noise violation after 10 p.m., which is moot because Butkowski stops shooting the machine at around 8 p.m.
But police in nearby Mullica Township — where cops were flooded with complaints about the noise — skeptical that the contraption could be heard from 10 miles away.
Mullica Township Police Chief Brian Zeck said the boom may be coming from multiple sources.
“We’re looking into [Butkowski], and we are looking into all other possibilities,” he said.
Butkowski, for his part, has no plans to stop firing the cannon, he said. “I’m gonna do whatever I want as long as it’s legal,” he said.
Meanwhile, neighbors are praying his boomer gets busted.
“Every time it goes off, I think there’s been an accident,” said Shawn Guevara, 43-year-old mom, who lives next door. “It scares the poop out of us.”
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