It's Raining What!?
by: Tristan Risk "Little Miss Risk"
As I write this, I'm looking out over the the cobalt blue of the South Pacific in New Zealand. The bright sunny weather is a stark contrast to the winter conditions that await me when I return home to Vancouver in February. This fact isn't lost on me, and yet I ponder how much rain is going to be up there. I asked a relative who is still on the Wet Coast and she replied with, "It's raining cats and dogs up here!" and sensing my immediate response she pre-empted me by going on to say, "Not literally, of course,". Well. no of course not. Not really... because it has never rained cats and dogs before, has it?
Well, that's not completely true. In medieval days when roofs were made of thatched material and critters lodged themselves in it, they come out in heavy rains, prompting the cry of raining cats and dogs. Dating back to Biblical times, we know full well that rains of locusts and toads from the sky mean that the doomsday was drawing upon us, and that the end was nigh. However, people have a bad habit assuming the worse or at least the most biblical from these omens and while clouds don't shower us with animals, they do tend to fall from the sky. The causes have less to do with some cosmic deity in the sky with a wizard beard upset because you touch yourself, than it does with meteorology and science.
What's even more confusing is that while some animals fall out of the sky with stormy weather, there have also been reports of critters raining down out of the blue with nary a cloud in sight. So how is this a possibility without the aid of an Old One who has their tentacled panties in a knot? It comes down to peculiar meteorology. While it has less to do with animals 'falling out of the sky' and more to do with strange weather patterns and perception. If a large thunderstorm has winds that have a powerful updraft to them, they are able to suck insects and even birds into the atmosphere. Tornados are also culprits picking up everything - not just animals - and hurtling objects around and scattering them far and wide. An atmospheric scientist at the University of Georgia by the name of John Knox did a study on twisters and the range of which they scattered their debris, including animals. "If an intense tornado goes over an area with small critters, such as frogs or fish, it seems very reasonable that they could be flung airborne and carried some distance away," says Knox.
Other varieties of strange and stormy critters don't so much rain from the sky as much as give the illusion that they do. In the Brazilian town of Santo Antonio da Platina two years ago, there was reports of spiders raining from the sky. If anyone has ever watched any nature documentary on arachnids, you will probably be aware that Brazilian spiders and snakes are not what you would call on the petite side. However, as paralyzing as a hail of spiders sounds to an arachnophobe, it had less to do with stormy spider weather and more to do with a blustery day and the Anelosimus eximius, which is one of the few social spiders that spins large group webs that can sometimes span power lines and trees. Suffice to say, a good gust can blow all the poor things out of their webs making it look like it's cloudy with a chance of what the fuck, and dashing the spiders hopes of hosting a volleyball tournament with their webs serving as a net, in the interests of cross species fellowship.
Another example of animal rain being more average than apocalypse is the great rains in Tennessee in January 1877, when the streets were filled with brown snakes in sheets of rain. While the general public likely lost their shit (especially in a time when people would be more inclined to myth and superstition than straight-up science) seeing the streets flooded with water and serpents, it was likely blamed on prophetic problems. What was more likely the case was that the flood-like waters got into the burrows of these animals, forcing a mass exodus from their safe spots as torrential downpour flushed them out. Go out into the garden after a hearty rain, and if the bodycount of nearly drowned worms is any indicator, you might think in your right mind, 'Shit, it's really rainy today, poor worms,' rather than that you need to get yourself to churching a dire way.
But this phenomenon isn't limited to just fish, birds, spiders and snakes. In Bath, England in 1894 there was a rain of jellyfish, and in 2007 worms in Jennings, Louisiana. If the Almighty sends down rains of locusts and toads when he doesn't want you to covet your neighbour's wife, then I'm at a loss for guessing what the hell set him off that he theoretically decided to drop down jellyfish and worms. Maybe the Holy Spirit was feeling a thread of whimsy that day, who knows. But it is indeed a global one with frogs raining down in Rakoczifalva, Hungary (2010) and Ishikawa Prefecture, Japan (2009) and fish flurries that span globally from Singapore in 1891 to Guntur, India as recently as August 2015.
But wait... what's that I hear? Someone is asking me about Sharknado, and if there is any chance that is a possible legitimate occurrence? Well, shit, critters have been raining down on people in film since 1977 in Peter Weir's The Last Wave (raining frogs) to Wonderful World with Matthew Broderick when it rains fish at the end of this 2009 film. But Syfy Channel's Sharknado takes the cake with not one, not two, but THREE films dedicated to sharks being sucked up a waterspout and depositing them around LA to eat people with as much bad CGI as the film was able to dish out. I personally love the aggressive 'om, nom, nom, nom" sounds made by said sharks in these films, as I was willing to suspend disbelief that yes, there was a waterspout system that was this strong and it sucked up only shark to the exclusion of any other fish in the ocean present during the waterspout, but that ridiculous noise killed it for me. However, while I won't say it's totally impossible for there to ever be a 'fishnado' that might have some sharks, I'm not going to invest in a shark-proof suit for the occasion with any kind of alacrity.
Although, with that said, I'm still holding out for the one kind of rain. Up until now, it has been only the furthest of all these meteorologistic weather patterns. I'm not holding out for it to be raining serpents or toads. In fact there is only one place I can happily find this weather pattern, and it largely confined to my favourite gay clubs where it has been and will always be - raining men.