What Weather!


What Weather!

Sunshine or shower, blizzards or heat waves—we never seem to tire of talking about the weather. We grumble if it is too hot or too cold, too wet or too dry. Imagine what we would say if we were caught in a shower of sticky black mud without an umbrella or raincoat!

Believe it or not, it has “rained” mud in some parts of the world—and it has rained many other surprising things too. Several years ago a shower of tiny frogs rained down on the town of Trowbridge in southern England, sending people rushing for shelter. Thousands of frogs fell into the town’s open-air swimming pool, causing startled bathers to scramble out of the water in record time. A similar shower occurred at Gibraltar, and workmen had to be called out to clear the streets and sidewalks.

Equally unwelcome was the “shower” that fell on the little town of Coonamble, Australia. People dashed for cover and shops closed hurriedly as millions of beetles fell from the sky. Householders worked at top speed trying to make doors and windows beetle-proof, but it was practically impossible to keep the invaders at bay. It was two days before life in the town even began to return to normal and much longer before the beetles were completely cleared from pantries, cupboards, bedrooms, and attics.

A much more welcome shower fell on a seaside town in Ireland in 1945. The streets were transformed into carpets of gleaming silver by a downpour of herring! People with an eye to business scooped them up by the basketful to sell in neighboring villages.

In an Italian fishing village a few years ago a shower of sardines fell from a cloudless sky. Abandoning their boats, the fishermen hurried ashore and gathered their “catches” from the beach and quayside!

One of the most unpleasant showers on record was experienced by villagers in southern Norway when they received a shower of rats! Many of the rats survived uninjured. They later multiplied and were a nuisance in the area for years afterward.

Most freak showers are caused by whirlwinds or waterspouts powerful enough to lift small creatures high into the air and carry them for considerable distances. It is not known, however, how waterspouts and whirlwinds can be so selective in what they pick up. On one occasion it was reported that a henhouse full of hens was snatched up from a farmyard and dropped into a garden twenty miles away—without any harm to the hens!

Even normal weather can have its abnormalities. For instance, we often say, “It’s as white as snow,” but did you know that snow is not always white? Green snow occasionally falls in the Antarctic, and a bright yellow snow is sometimes seen in New Brunswick. In 1940 Italy had a pink snowfall that spoiled many water supplies because it had a strong salty flavor. The rarest variety of colored snow is the dark gray or black snow that sometimes falls on the Tatra Mountains in Czechoslovakia.

Colored snows are often caused by the presence of algae. A minute form of plant life similar to seaweed, it can multiply at an amazing rate. Colored sand, volcanic dust, and tiny insects can also cause colored snow.

The next time you feel like grumbling about the weather, remember the colored snow and those showers of frogs and beetles and rats, and be thankful they didn’t fall on you.

[illustration] Illustrated by Dick Brown