It’s Raining… Fish?

Texas has certainly seen some strange things fall from its skies over the last year, from February’s historic snowfall to March’s failed SpaceX launch.

However, something that occurred in the dying days of 2021 might just take the cake.

On Wednesday, December 29th, 2021, over the city of Texarkana, Texas – fish fell from the sky.

The parking lot of a local car dealership in Texarkana, Texas

According to the Dallas Morning News, residents from at least four different locations reported seeing fish falling from the sky on Wednesday evening and Texarkana officials reportedly received multiple videos of fish flopping on the ground of parking lots like the one pictured above.

But is this the first time this has occurred? And what causes this strange phenomenon? We decided to take a closer look.

Raining Cats and Dogs

Fish falling from the sky is certainly rare, but it is far from unheard of. In fact, this occurrence seems to happen somewhere in the world at least once every couple of years and makes international headlines as a result.

The last notable cases were in 2017, where three separate locations (Sri Lanka, California, and Mexico) saw it rain fish. Prior to that, every year from 2012 to 2016 saw at least one case of “animal rain” at some point during the calendar year.

Here in Canada, these strange animal rains are not even limited to fish.

In 1921 frogs rained down on the streets of Calgary. In 1857, lizards reportedly fell from the sky over Montreal. And in 1846, a snow shower over Carleton, New Brunswick brought with it hundreds of earthworms.

So what is causing these strange storms?

The Science Behind Animal Rain

As mentioned above, fish falling from the sky is rare but its semi-annual occurrence has given us a fairly good idea about how it occurs.

The key ingredient for this strange phenomenon to occur is a waterspout.

File:Waterspout - panoramio (1).jpg - Wikimedia Commons
Two waterspouts in action

Waterspouts come in two forms, tornadic and fair-weather, with the former being credited for the majority of known animal rain cases. These strong, often violent storms begin their life as regular tornados before migrating from land towards the water.

Just like true tornados, these vortexes work by constantly pulling air upward. When these tornados move over water, however, water begins to enter this vortex and objects sitting near the surface, such as algae, frogs, and fish occasionally get pulled in with it.

Once inside the vortex of the waterspout, objects can be moved great distances as the storm progresses back towards land. This was most notable in Australia where a remote desert town 326 miles from water experienced a fish storm of their own in 2010.

A “Sun Shower” of Fish?

One of the unique aspects of the most recent animal rain story out of Texas, however, is the fact that no traditional waterspout seemed to occur before the fish-filled shower.

“As we looked at the storm and went back and looked at the data, we really didn’t find anything that would indicate that there was any kind of waterspout.” Brandon Thorne, a meteorologist for NWS Shreveport told the Dallas Morning News. “We’re kind of confused as to how it happened as well, to be honest.”

Although the falling of fish was accompanied by a minor storm, a tornadic waterspout surely would have been reported by residents and would have been very difficult for meteorologists to miss. Furthermore, the reports that the falling fish were young White Bass means that the waterspout would have had to have formed on one of the populated nearby lakes.

“It’s certainly a headscratcher,” one meteorologist said.


Sources:

https://www.allthingsnature.org/how-does-it-rain-fish.htm

dallasnews.com/news/texas/2022/01/02/residents-of-east-texas-town-report-fish-falling-from-sky/

https://www.macleans.ca/society/9-weird-things-that-fell-from-the-sky-over-canada-2/

telegraph.co.uk/news/newstopics/howaboutthat/7345574/Australian-town-326-miles-from-river-hit-by-raining-fish.html#:~:text=Lajamanu in the Northern Territory,dumped over the tiny town.

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