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One neighborhood all shook up

Mysterious rumblings in a Newport neighborhood have residents along a stretch of First Avenue literally shaking in their homes -- and city officials don't have a clue what's causing it.

Residents on First Avenue north of 20th Street in northwest Newport began complaining of vibrations rattling their homes in August. Theories on what's causing the tremors abound: Burlington Northern-Santa Fe train tracks sit a few hundred yards away, Wakota Bridge construction continues just a half-mile to the north and a half-dozen industrial businesses border the neighborhood to the north.

But Newport City Administrator Brian Anderson says officials can't determine what, exactly, is causing the homes to quake, and can't do much to help residents at the moment.

"It's hard to pinpoint it, because you're getting these things happening all hours of the day and night," Anderson said.

Some have suggested to city officials that the more than 100 trains per day that thunder through Newport are behind the shaking. Other residents have told officials at Newport City Hall the quaking occurs when no trains are present.

Anderson said city staff has met with geologists, who opined that the vibrations are most likely mechanical, not natural.

Newport City Council member Corb Hopkins lives just south of the area most impacted by the strange shaking. He said he agrees the culprit isn't geological, and he doesn't believe the nearby train tracks are the cause, either. But that doesn't much help narrow down a potential cause, he says.

The city will have to do "a lot of unraveling," Hopkins said. "It's a mystery."

At his home, in the 1700 block of First Avenue, Hopkins said he doesn't feel any shaking, even when up early in the morning when residents have reported feeling it often. Hopkins' neighbor across the street, though, has told the council member he feels a slight vibration at times.

Officials say no homes on any surrounding blocks have reported any shaking.

"That's the frustrating part of it, too," Anderson said. "It's such a consolidated little area. You get people who live on the next block and they can't feel it."

Anderson said the city is in the process of slowly unraveling the riddle. Officials will begin talking to businesses in the vicinity -- including those north of the Wakota Bridge, like the large municipal waste processing plant and neighboring steel plant -- asking them if any new pieces of machinery or changes in operating have been introduced since August, when the vibrations began.

If that fails, Anderson said, the city might consult with an engineering firm for vibration monitoring to triangulate where the rumblings are originating.