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'Frost quakes' sound scary, but what are they? Here's the science behind the noises you might be hearing.

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By JESSIE MCDONOUGH, WHP

DILLSBURG, Pa. (CIRCA via WHP) — It's so cold, the ground could be cracking underneath your feet. Apparently, it's a thing, and it's been reported in Pennsylvania.

A phenomenon caused by bitter cold and extra moisture, geologist Jeri Jones is calling it a “frost quake."

Michelle Tebbetts was crocheting a blanket when she was startled by a big bang.

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At first, Michelle Tebbetts thought her cats had knocked something over when she heard the noise, which has been coined a "frost quake."

“It sounded like a big piece of furniture fell over ... and I’m thinking: What did the cats knock over that was that big and that loud?" Tebbetts said.

After Tebbetts, who lives in Dillsburg, checked the whole house and found nothing out of place, she reported the activity to Jones, a professor at York College of Pennsylvania.

“I said well maybe it was an earthquake, so I got a hold of Jeri Jones, and he said he’s gotten a bunch of calls from people. He said you are having a frost quake," Tebbetts said.

Up until 2009, frost quakes were only felt in 12 other states and into Canada, according to Jones.

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York College professor and geologist Jeri Jones explained that frost quakes can occur when water in the ground freezes quickly, expands and cracks the ground, causing "booms" that people can hear.

“These frost quakes are a situation where the ground is not frozen totally, but it’s oversaturated and subfreezing temperatures begin. The ground and water will freeze and expand, and it actually puts out a little explosion and people hear these booms,” Jones said.

Now, more and more people are reporting frost quakes in Pennsylvania.

“These frost quakes, they sound more like a boom or a bang, and then we get a little shake in the house,” said Steven Tebbetts, Michelle's husband.

This is not the first time the couple has felt tremors at their home. Millersburg University even installed a seismograph in the Tebbetts' backyard.

What's in store for you this winter?

“Who knew that Dillsburg would be the California of the East," Steven said.

Jones has assured the family that this time, it was a frost quake, not an earthquake.

According to Jones, the tremors were too deep to be a mine collapse and too shallow to be an earthquake.

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