Can it Really Rain Cats & Dogs?
By Heidi Sonen & Roscoe Shaw
You’ve heard the expression “It’s raining cats and dogs.” And of course there is the famous book “Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs” where food rained down three times a day on the town of Chewandswallow. Last week in Crozet, it seemed at times as if cats and dogs were falling. One evening, we measured 2.18” in just 20 minutes. Of course, these are just expressions and fiction, but you would be surprised what can rain out of the sky. There have been numerous accounts of small creatures raining down:
• Between AD 77 and AD 79 the Roman writer Pliny the Elder recorded a storm of frogs and fish in his Natural History.
• Showers of live minnow and smooth-tailed sticklebacks fell on Aberdare, Wales, 11 February 1859.
• On 21 May 1921 thousands of frogs fell on Gibraltar during a thunderstorm.
• A heavy storm in Acapulco, Mexico, on 5 October 1967, was accompanied by inch-long maggots.
• Dozens of fish, later identified as flounder and smelt, were found in gardens and on roofs in London, following a thunderstorm on the night of 27-28 May 1984.
• Worms fell on skiers last winter in Norway. This follows many reports of raining worms in Norway since the 1920s.
• In Yoro, Honduras, residents claim that “fish rain” happens nearly every summer.
So, this has happened enough times in enough places that it is certainly true. But how does it happen? The most logical explanation is that a tornado moving over water sucks up the creatures high into the air and drops them often miles away. This is supported by the fact that the vast majority of reports of raining animals involve small aquatic creatures.
Often, the animals are light enough to land safely and resume a normal life. Some frogs, however, have been swept high enough to freeze, get coated by ice and come down hard and dead like a hailstone. What a way to go.
Of course, a mean tornado can make it rain houses, too. An F4 tornado just missed Heidi’s childhood home. When we visited months later, many trees were still filled with aluminum siding that glinted in the sun, serving as a reminder of how quick a mobile home can become “precipitation”, too.
The past two years have been very cold, but May 2015 reversed the trend, finishing nearly 3 degrees above normal. Twenty one days reached 80, which is more like summer than spring. Rain dried up during the last half of the month and the grass started to brown-out, but that seems like a distant memory now that June has started astonishingly wet. At this time of year, rainfall totals often vary wildly over short distances.
- Mint Springs 2.87”
- Greenwood 0.78”
- Beaver Creek 1.86”
- Batesville 1.06”
- Wintergreen 2.50”
- White Hall 3.52”
- Nellysford 1.72”
- Univ. of VA 3.49”
- CHO Airport 1.82”