OAKVILLE, Wash. Blobs Fall From the Sky. Kitten Dies.
''We don't know what it is or where it came from,'' said Dick Meyer, spokesman for the Federal Aviation Administration in Seattle. ''It's a puzzle.''
It's a puzzle Sunny Barclift wants solved.
''This stuff came out of the sky,'' Barclift said. ''I want to know what it is.''
Twice in the past two weeks when it has rained, small blobs of clear, gelatinous goo have fallen on and around the home Barclift shares with her mother, Dotty Hearn, on a 29-acre farm.
The blobs, about half the size of rice grains, might have gone unnoticed had it not been for a number of circumstances, beginning with a small shed covered with black asphalt roofing.
Barclift, who moved here last year from Phoenix after working for six years as director of occupational safety and health for the Arizona branch of the National Safety Council, noticed the clear, jelly-like particles on the shed roof after the rain stopped.
After the first blob shower on Aug. 7, Hearn went to the hospital suffering from dizziness and nausea. Barclift and a friend also had minor bouts of nausea and fatigue after collecting and touching the mysterious goop. A newly adopted kitten, which lived outside, died days later after a struggle with severe intestinal problems.
The blobs came again in the rain on Tuesday, but this time no one in the household fell ill.
There have been no other confirmed reports of mysterious blobs, officials with several agencies said. But a National Weather Service employee in the area received a call from an unidentified man in early August describing hot, metallic particles from the sky that burned holes in his children's trampoline.
Dr. David Little, who treated Barclift's mother, said he doubted that Hearn's illness was connected to the strange blobs. Little said her dizziness and nausea appeared to be caused by an inner ear problem. But he agreed to have the lab take a look at the stuff anyway.
''The lab tech put the substance under a microscope,'' Little said. ''He found some human white cells in it.''
The hospital didn't do a chemical analysis, Barclift noted, perhaps because the lab staff seemed reluctant to test the blobs in the first place.
Little suggested the blobs might be concentrated fluid waste from an airplane toilet, since this could contain anti-freeze that would explain the presence of human cells as well as the illnesses. The kitten, he said, could have been hurt by ingesting anti-freeze.
But Little said there was no clear evidence of a health hazard.
Barclift called the FAA and eventually persuaded it to investigate the mystery blobs.
Meyer said all commercial plane toilet fluids are dyed blue, so it seemed unlikely that was the explanation. He said the FAA investigator asked the military if there had been any flights over the area or any exercises that might explain the blobs.
''This is where the jellyfish theory came in,'' Meyer said.
It's not clear who should get credit for proposing this theory, but it's based on the fact the blobs appeared around the time the Air Force was dropping bombs in the Pacific Ocean off the Washington coast.
''They were conducting bombing runs using live ordnance,'' said Master Sgt. Thaddeus Hosley, spokesman at McChord Air Force Base. Hosley said the 354th Fighter Squadron was flying last week and this week, dropping bombs about 10 to 20 miles west of Ocean Shores.
Despite the 40 to 50 miles separating the bombing runs and the blob fallout, Oakville Chief of Police Gary Greub said somebody suggested a school of jellyfish might have been blown literally sky-high.
McChord's Hosley, trying but failing to stifle a laugh, said he could not comment on the jellyfish theory.
''That's ridiculous,'' said Barclift. Besides, she said, this wouldn't explain why the blobs came twice or why they come only when it rains.
After more than a week's worth of phone calls to state and federal agencies, Barclift has persuaded the state Department of Ecology to conduct tests of the blobs.
''We'll take a look at it,'' said Mike Osweiler of the agency's hazardous-material spill response unit for Southwest Washington.
Osweiler has heard all the theories, including the flying jellyfish one.
''That's a long way for jellyfish to travel ... unless they're shooting them in from the coast,'' he said.
''This is a head-scratcher.''
Barclift said she's more curious than concerned about the blobs, noting that the timing of the kitten's death and the illnesses might be just coincidence. But the fact the blobs have twice rained down on her house makes her wonder what's going on.
''It's weird,'' she said.