It wasn’t the LED kite guy.
It wasn’t some promotional event at the mall.
And it wasn’t anything familiar to the Federal Aviation Administration.
But if you were driving home Wednesday evening sometime between 5 and 6 p.m. and you saw an odd array of perhaps 50 to 100 reddish-orange lights floating over SR 500 and I-205, you weren’t the only one.
A handful of people reported seeing the odd phenomenon to The Columbian and to the National UFO Reporting Center in Eastern Washington.
According to an email sent to the paper from Vancouver resident John Milligan:
“(I was looking from) the 63rd Street overpass over the 205 and I saw off toward the south three red-orange lights that were drifting easterly slowly that then seemingly vanished. As I continued to watch, I observed four more red-orange lights rising up from a single point on the horizon, separated by about 45 seconds each. They would rise slowly at first, accelerating gradually, then top out at 1,000 feet or so, then travel horizontally east before disappearing.”
Peter Davenport, director of the UFO Reporting Center, said he had a witness call Wednesday night from Clark County.
“Allegedly, two or three people were flabbergasted to see a cluster of 200 to 300 lights,” Davenport said. “The reason the phenomenon is so interesting is because we do not know what it is. We can not explain it away.”
The last big phenomenon with unexplained lights in Vancouver, back in February 2011, turned out to be a fellow named Mike, who was flying a Chinese-made kite that was covered with changeable LED lights. The kite, made of parachute fabric in a triangle shape, standing 7 1/2 feet tall with a wingspan of 13 feet, caused quite a stir in the area until the source was uncovered. The kite still generates the occasional UFO report.
Mike, who doesn’t want his last name in the paper, says he wasn’t flying his kite on Wednesday night, though.
“It definitely wasn’t me,” Mike said. “I haven’t flown for three or four weeks.”
A report that the lights seemed to be emanating from the Westfield Vancouver mall also didn’t pan out.
“Last night we weren’t doing anything,” Paige Moreau, the general manager, said Thursday. “It wasn’t us.”
Dispatchers at the Clark Regional Emergency Services Agency hadn’t heard anything either, nor was there much buzz around the agency about it on Thursday morning, said Debbie Butchard, the records custodian.
“I haven’t heard anything like that,” she said. “No. Nothing at all.”
Jim Todd, planetarium manager at the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry, hadn’t heard any odd reports either.
“I don’t know of anything unusual happening,” Todd said. “I don’t know what it would be. Last night was the first time we had clear skies in a while, and it sounds like it was in the atmosphere, not above it.”
The Portland International Airport had an uneventful evening Wednesday as well, said Allen Kenitzer, a spokesman for the Federal Aviation Administration.
“They have no reports of any pilots talking about any strange lights, nor anything on radar, nor anything from the controllers,” Kenitzer said.
So what was it?
It appears to be open to speculation.
For his part, Davenport said he’s been hearing of similar sightings since June 2011.
“I’ve taken thousands of reports over the last 17 or 18 months,” Davenport said. “My instincts are telling me something very unusual is taking place.”
Some reports in other areas say that the lights moved off at an angle or came out of water, he said.
He has an archived database of similar incidents on his website at http://www.ufocenter.com/.
“Just do a search for red, orange, yellow fireballs,” he said. “It’s been going on for several years, although starting in June 2011 there was a noticeable uptick in the frequency of reports.”
He also has an online reporting area on the site where people can list what they saw.
“If anybody saw anything, we would love to get reports from them,” Davenport said.