It’s raining fish in east Texas – but it’s nothing too out of the ordinary.
Earlier this week, residents of Texarkana reported small fish falling from the sky in what seemed like an epochal weather event. The reality was more mundane: The swimmers, many of them palm-sized, were likely picked up by a waterspout and dropped back down to earth as it lost momentum, the city told residents in a Facebook post.
The fish showers are an example of “animal rain,” the city explained, and “while it’s uncommon,” it can happen when the weather is just right – and the fish are just light enough.
The animals didn’t originate in the sky before they started raining, of course – rather, they were picked up off the ground by powerful waterspouts, which begin in the air and move down toward water’s surface. As these spouts gain momentum, the vortex at the center of the waterspouts can start picking up small, light objects – including fish. And when the waterspout loses energy, those small objects come falling back down, explains the Library of Congress.
Updrafts – super-strong winds – are more powerful than waterspouts and can pick up animals larger than skinny fish, according to National Geographic, including birds, bats, frogs and snakes.
The residents of Texarkana were by all accounts relatively nonplussed by the bizarre weather event. Tim Brigham told CNN affiliate KSLA he thought it was “pretty cool” to see tiny fish falling from the sky and useful, too – he said he “started to get me a bucket and pick them up for fishing bait.” The employees of Discount Wheel and Tire stepped away from the tires and instead started cleaning up their parking lot’s surprise seafood platter.
Others shared photos of their own backyard fish finds after the city’s Facebook page asked them to “show us your fishy pics.” Most of them were no bigger than the palm of the hand of the resident who took the photo.
Texarkana’s animal rain may be one of the only recorded instances of the phenomenon in the state, but California last saw the same thing in 2017, when elementary school officials in Oroville reported that 100 fish fell from the sky and onto school property. Fish have fallen from the sky in the town of Lajamanu in Australia’s Northern Territory at least three times in the last 30 years, per the Weather Channel.