Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Weird, Weird Rain Falls All Over The World

Heads up! There are all kinds of strange stuff falling from the sky: frogs, sardines, jellyfish, alligators and maybe - just maybe - cows! Here are some documented cases of really weird precipitation. Let’s take a closer look…

As I sit writing this week's feature and glance out my window, it's pouring rain outside. Many would say that it is raining cats and dogs. Not literally, of course. But that's not to say that at times in many areas around the world that it hasn't rained things just as strange as felines and canines. Sometimes, things even stranger have fallen from the sky.
Weird rain is one of the more bizarre - and still largely unexplained - phenomena that are periodically (yet continually) reported from all corners of the globe. There have been accounts of frog rain, fish rain, squid rain, worm rain, even alligator rain. The logical explanation for the odd occurrences is that a tornado or strong whirlwind picked up the animals from a shallow body of water and carried them - sometimes for hundreds of miles - before dropping them on a bewildered populace. This explanation has yet to be proved, and it can't quite account for all of the documented incidents, as you'll see below.
Here are some of the more unusual cases - a small sampling from thousands of reports over the years - that defy all rational explanation.

Frogs, Fish, Flesh, Blood & More
  • In 1873, Scientific American reported that Kansas City, Missouri was blanketed with frogs that dropped from the sky during a storm.
  • Minneapolis, Minnesota was pelted with frogs and toads in July, 1901. A news item stated: "When the storm was at its highest... there appeared as if descending directly from the sky a huge green mass. Then followed a peculiar patter, unlike that of rain or hail. When the storm abated the people found, three inches deep and covering an area of more than four blocks, a collection of a most striking variety of frogs... so thick in some places [that] travel was impossible."
  • The citizens of Naphlion, a city in southern Greece, were surprised one morning in May, 1981, when they awoke to find small green frogs falling from the sky. Weighing just a few ounces each, the frogs landed in trees and plopped into the streets. The Greek Meteorological Institute surmised they were picked up by a strong wind. It must have been a very strong wind. The species of frog was native to North Africa!
  • In 1995, reports Fortean Times Online, Nellie Straw of Sheffield, England, was driving through Scotland on holiday with her family when they encountered a severe storm. Along with the heavy rain, however, hundreds of frogs suddenly pelted her car.
  • A powerful whirlwind might explain a rain of small fish, but it cannot account for the ones that fell on a village in India. As many as 10 people reported picking up fish that weighed as much as eight pounds that had come crashing down on them.
  • In February, 1861, folks in many areas of Singapore reported a rain of fish following an earthquake. How could the two possibly correlate?
  • Golfers dread gathering clouds and a rain that might ruin their game. But imagine the consternation of several duffers in Bournemouth, England, in 1948 who received a shower of herring.
  • Priests often pray for blessings from above... but fish? In 1966, Father Leonard Bourne was dashing through a downpour across a courtyard in North Sydney, Australia, when a large fish fell from the sky and landed on his shoulder. The priest nearly caught it as it slid down his chest, but it squirmed away, fell to the flooded ground and swam away.
  • These things don't always happen in a heavy rain. In 1989, in Ipswich, Australia, Harold and Degen's front lawn was covered with about 800 "sardines" that rained from above during a light shower.
  • This report is most unusual: In an otherwise clear sky in Chilatchee, Alabama in 1956, a woman and her husband watched as a small dark cloud formed in the sky. When it was overhead, the cloud released its contents: rain, catfish, bass and bream - all of the fish alive. The dark cloud had turned to white, then dispersed.
  • In 1890, Popular Science News reported that blood rained down on Messignadi, Calabria in Italy - bird's blood. It was speculated that the birds were somehow torn part by violent winds, although there were no such winds at the time. And no other parts of the bird came down - just blood.
  • J. Hudson's farm in Los Nietos Township, California endured a rain of flesh and blood for three minutes in 1869. The grisly fall covered several acres.
  • The American Journal of Science confirmed a shower of blood, fat and muscle tissue that fell on a tobacco farm near Lebanon, Tennessee in August, 1841. Field workers, who actually experienced this weird shower, said they heard a rattling noise and saw "drops of blood, as they supposed...fell from a red cloud which was flying over."
  • In 1881, a thunderstorm in Worcester, England, brought down tons of periwinkles and hermit crabs.
  • In November, 1996, a town in southern Tasmania was slimed! Several residents woke up on a Sunday morning after a night of violent thunderstorms to find a strange, white-clear jelly-like substance on their property. Apparently, it had rained jellyfish.
  • A Korean fisherman, trolling off the coast of the Falkland Islands, was knocked unconscious by a single frozen squid that fell from the sky and smacked him on the head.
  • In July, 2001, a red rain fell on Kerala, India. At first it was thought that a meteor was responsible for the strange-colored rain, but an analysis showed that the water was filled with fungal spores. Still, where did all of those red spores come from to be rained down in such concentration?
  • From about 1982 to 1986, kernels of corn have rained down on several houses in Evans, Colorado - tons of it, according to Gary Bryan, one of the residents. Oddly, there were no cornfields in the area that might account for the phenomenon.
  • In August, 2001, the Wichita, Kansas area experienced an unexplained rain of corn husks. The news report stated that "thousands of dried corn leaves fell over east Wichita - from about Central Avenue to 37th Street North, along Woodlawn Boulevard and on east - each about 20 to 30 inches long."
  • In 1877, several one-foot-long alligators fell on J. L. Smith's farm in South Carolina. They landed, unharmed, and started crawling around, reported The New York Times.
  • Raining animals and such were first described by Pliny the Elder in the 1st century and ever since caused astonishment and perplexity. Before the advent of modern science, supernatural explanations, from God to extraterrestrial entities, were invoked to explain the phenomenon.

The scientific explanation involves a combination of geographic circumstance and meteorological chance. During a storm, wind may sweep the earth's surface at great speed, creating whirlwinds or even small tornadoes that can catch debris on the surface. The rain of water-born animals such as amphibians or fishes is explained with the passage of such whirlwinds over lakes or rivers; land animals are captured directly from the surface and birds can be taken while in flight. Once trapped in the winds, the animals can travel over long distances or can be transported to the higher parts of the stratosphere before being dropped in the form of rain, often hundreds of miles away.
And finally, perhaps the most bizarre report is one that, unfortunately, cannot be confirmed. It may be just the stuff of urban legend, but it is so weird and so amusing that I just had to include it.
Sometime around May of 1990, a Japanese fishing boat was sunk in the Sea of Okhotsk off the eastern coast of Siberia by a falling cow. When the crew of the wrecked ship were fished from the water, they told authorities that they had seen several cows falling from the sky, and that one of them crashed straight through the deck and the hull. At first, as the story goes, the fishermen were arrested for trying to perpetrate an insurance fraud, but were released when their story was verified. It seems that a Russian transport plane carrying stolen cattle was flying overhead. When the movement of the herd within the plane threw it off balance, the plane's crew, to avoid crashing, opened the loading bay at the tail of the aircraft and drove them out to fall into the water below. True story or hoax? One investigation traced the story back to a Russian television comedy series.

Personally, I think the story is the most preposterous.... Wait a minute... I think I just saw something large and black and white fall past my window. Is that mooing I hear?

I’m Average Joe

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