Meteors typically cause sizeable sonic booms when they enter the atmosphere because they are traveling so much faster than the speed of sound. Injuries on the scale reported Friday, however, are extraordinarily rare.
"I went to see what that flash in the sky was about," recalled resident Marat Lobkovsky. "And then the window glass shattered, bouncing back on me. My beard was cut open, but not deep. They patched me up, it's OK now."
Another resident, Valya Kazakov, said some elderly women in his neighborhood started crying out that the world was ending.
Lessons had just started at Chelyabinsk schools when the meteor exploded, and officials said 204 schoolchildren were among those injured.
Yekaterina Melikhova, a high school student whose nose was bloody and whose upper lip was covered with a bandage, said she was in her geography class when they saw a bright light outside.
"After the flash, nothing happened for about three minutes. Then we rushed outdoors. I was not alone, I was there with Katya. The door was made of glass, a shock wave made it hit us," she said.
Russian television ran footage of athletes at a city sports arena who were showered by shards of glass from huge windows. Some of them were still bleeding.
City officials said 3,000 buildings in the city were damaged by the shock wave, including a zinc factory where part of the roof collapsed.
The vast implosion of glass windows exposed many residents to the bitter cold as temperatures in the city hovered around minus 9 Celsius (15.8 Fahrenheit).
The regional governor immediately urged any workers who can pane windows to rush to the area to help out.
Some fragments fell in a reservoir outside the town of Chebarkul, the regional governor's office said, according to the ITAR-Tass.