B.J. Thomas sang about raindrops falling on his head in a hit piece from the movie “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.” While there’s nothing unusual about raindrops descending from the sky, fish plummeting to earth from above is pretty unnerving. As if 2021 wasn’t crazy enough with a pandemic and emerging variants, the year came to a close with a weather phenomenon known as animal rain causing a stir in Texas. Fish unexpectedly dropped in on the Lone Star State–literally. Holy carp!
Don’t believe this event occurred? Just visit the Facebook page of Texarkana, Texas, a town located some 200 miles from Dallas in east Texas. On December 29th, the municipality reported fish falling from the sky around and about town and provided photo evidence. [See https://www.facebook.com/texarkanatexas.] Landing sites included residential properties and a used car lot. Posts on social media with video and pictures of fish which had rained down from above on Texarkana residents abounded. At least one resident took advantage of the unusual event by grabbing a bucket and collecting the palm-sized fish lying about to use for bait.
What in the world was going on? The label affixed to such an event is “animal rain.” It’s a rare meteorlogical phenomenon where flightless animals fall from the sky. Such occurrences have been reported throughout history. Way back in the 1st century A.D., Pliny the Elder (not to be confused with Pliny the Younger), a Roman naturalist and author, documented storms causing frogs and fish to fall from the sky.
Yeah, sure, but Pliny’s sighting was ages ago and on a different continent. Nevertheless, reports of fish plummeting from the sky have been made right here in the United States during modern times including in Marksville, LA in 1947; in Philadelphia, PA in 2016; and in Oroville, CA in 2017. The Oroville event was quite a learning experience for the pupils of one local school who were out at recess when it began. Fish hit several of the students and littered the playground and school roof with fish.
The U.S. doesn’t have the corner on modern day fish showers though. Singapore experienced a rain of fish in 1861. Rural inhabitants of Yoro, Honduras claim that every summer there is what they call Lluvia de Peces, or fish rain. I’m betting there’s not a fresh rain smell in Yoro after that shower.
According to the BBC News, fish are the most common creature to descend when there’s animal rain. However, other creatures can come down as well. Frogs made an aerial descent on Kansas City in 1873 and on Dubuque, Iowa in 1882. Snakes dropped down on Memphis, TN in 1877. Jellyfish rained down upon Bath, England in 1894. Worms sprinkled Jennings, LA in 2007 and a Scottish school in 2011. Spiders fell from the sky in Goulburn, Australia in 2015. Octopi and starfish rained down upon Shandong Province, China in June 2018. On the bright side, all the falling creatures were small and not cats and dogs.
How is it possible for land-based (as opposed to sky-based) creatures to end up high in the air only to plummet down on our heads? The hypothesis is that tornadic waterspouts pick up small creatures from bodies of water and carry them for some distance, even miles, after sweeping them up. Since waterspouts can spin up to 100 mph, it is not difficult to imagine small animals being pulled into the funnel.
But as waterspouts move over land, their swirling energy is lost, and they must dump their heavy loads. The cloud then releases objects of a similar weight at the same time with the heaviest items being jettisoned first. So, fish would drop before raindrops based on their weight. With this scientific explanation, some have speculated animal rain may account for the Biblical plague of frogs in Egypt, a story which is related in the book of Exodus.
Updrafts may also be responsible for sweeping up creatures for a wild ride before releasing them to terrorize people below. An updraft is a wind current caused by warm air from high pressure which is near the earth which rises into cooler, low-pressure areas in the atmosphere. Winds are likely to catch small creatures such as bats and birds to later rain down on startled people.
The idea that any type of creature might be falling from the sky down on my head is enough to make me want to routinely carry an umbrella for protection. I’d take getting wet over getting walloped by a fish or bombed by a bat or bird any day. Perhaps weather forecasters will take notice of these unusual events and advise us when it might be cloudy with a chance of fish fillets rather than meatballs.
Before reading this post, had you ever heard of animal rain? How would you react to seeing fish plummeting from the sky? If a small creature had to drop from above, what would you most like to spot coming down?