Q: We know it’s not possible to rain cats and dogs, but sometimes you hear about frogs and even fish coming down from the sky. Is this possible?
A: It is, and it’s happened many times throughout history, says Brent McRoberts of Texas A&M University. "There are reports of it raining frogs, fishes and even snakes going back almost 2,000 years," McRoberts says. "In the past 300 years, many of these have been carefully documented and witnessed by dozens or even hundreds of people. Most of these have involved frogs and fish, but others have seen such things as corn, snakes, flowers and other materials. In 1873, parts of Kansas City were covered with tiny frogs that had dropped from the sky. In November 1996, a town in Tasmania woke up to find a strange white substance covering everything. It turned out to be either fish eggs or small jellyfish."
Q: What causes these things to fall from the sky?
A: The most generally accepted answer is that small creatures, such as fish or frogs, are sucked up high into the air by either very strong thunderstorms or tornadoes, McRoberts explains. "Over the ocean, a waterspout — a tornado that forms over water — can produce strong enough winds to carry small fish into the air, and this can also happen over large lakes. There are instances of some of these creatures being carried long distances because there was no water nearby. Maybe one of the strangest occurred in 1877 when The New York Times reported that several small alligators had fallen from the sky onto a South Carolina farm, and in August of 2001, the Wichita, Kansas, area experienced rain mixed with cornhusks, some of them 30 inches long."
Weather Whys is a service of the Department of Atmospheric Sciences at Texas A&M University.