Welcome to the new era in which all of mankind lives under the benevolent rule of our undersea overlords. We are entering a new age in which our ocean-dwelling, scale-covered leaders will administer the scales of justice. Yes, we are referring to the next chapter in humanity: Ichthyarchy, or, more commonly known as, “The Reign of Fish.”
Wait a minute…. Apparently some numbskull got the topic for this article wrong. Unfortunately, we will have to wait until another day to discuss mankind’s glorious future under the coming Reign of Fish. Today’s topic is the somewhat less inspirational but still interesting phenomenon known as the “Rain of Fish.”
No matter where you travel, you will find people who will tell you that the weather in that part of the world is noteworthy. The residents of the central United States speak of the risks of living in Tornado Alley. Those in Southeast Asia can tell you stories about the monsoon season. If you visit the Honduran city of Yoro, you will hear about their own weather peculiarity: the annual Lluvia de Peces (“Rain of Fish”). At least once and sometimes twice each year, torrential rains dump small silver fish throughout the city.
The bizarre weather phenomenon has been reported for over 200 years. In May or June each year, the residents of Yoro run for cover as a massive storm sends torrential rain. When it passes, people come out of their homes to find the streets filled with the small, flopping fish.
Known as “animal rain,” this type of peculiar weather phenomenon has been reported for centuries. In the 1880s, for example, residents of Kansas City, Missouri and Dubuque, Iowa were astonished by a shower of frogs. There have been other accounts of storms that deposited birds, snakes, small alligators, and even a “rain of flesh and blood.” In some accounts, the animals fall from the sky alive, while in others they are dead, frozen, or mangled.
The scientific explanation for animal rain is still open for debate. In 1823, explorer and botanist Alexander Von Humbolt linked the 1698 volcanic eruption of Mt. Carihuairazo with an animal rain that covered forty-three square miles of the surrounding area with fish. He speculated that they may have come from an underground lake connected to the volcano.
The cases of “bird rains” are most likely explained by a flock of birds getting overtaken by a sudden storm or strong wind. In these situations, the birds might be pulled to a high enough altitude that they freeze, driven to exhaustion by their inability to land, or battered to death in violent turbulence. Once the wind subsides, they then fall upon the unsuspecting and astonished population below. This could also account for the horrifying stories of flesh and blood rains when the birds are so badly battered that they become unrecognizable.
Another explanation for animal rains — particularly those where no animals were witnessed in mid-fall — is that torrential rains or flash floods force certain animals out of their homes or cause rivers to surge over their banks, depositing animals on the streets. When the storm is over, people see the animals and incorrectly assume they have fallen from the sky.
There are, however, well-documented cases of actual animal rains. In the 1970s, a National Geographic team witnessed the Lluvia de Peces in Yoro, offering credible verification of fish falling from the sky.
The most likely explanation for the Lluvia de Peces is waterspouts. Waterspouts are tornados that form over a body of water. These powerful currents of air have the ability to lift small animals from the water and carry or throw them quite a distance from the place of origin. Since most of the animal rains report aquatic creatures as the unusual precipitation, the waterspout theory seems to make the most sense.
In the case of Yoro’s Lluvia de Peces, the fish are not local to the area. They would have to come as far as 200 km (125 miles) from the Atlantic Ocean.
Another explanation offered by the faithful of Yoro is that the rain of fish is a blessing from God. Father Jose Manuel Subirana (1807-1864) was a Catholic priest who ministered among the Indians in Honduras. During a long prayer session, Subirana asked God to provide food for the hungry. At the end of his prayer, it rained fish. Since 1998, the people of Yoro honor the memory of Father Subirana by holding a festival in his honor.