People have been telling stories about fish and frogs falling from the sky during storms since ancient times. Portrayals by 17th Century artist Erasmus Francisci of fish, and even rats, raining from the heavens are included in the photo library of the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration. Weather stories in the Library of Congress talk about frogs raining down on Kansas City in 1873 and frogs falling on Dubuque in 1882. And we all use the phrase "raining cats and dogs."
But two small fish discovered on a Buffalo Grove driveway after Monday's sudden cloudburst weren't part of any "fish rain," says Tim Seeley, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service station in Romeoville.
On rare occasions, a tornado, with its massive updraft and strong winds, conceivably could touch down on a body of water, pull up small creatures and later plop them onto a driveway, but Seeley says Monday's storm couldn't have picked up fish.
"There were definitely speeds equal to a low-end tornado, but there was no tornado," Seeley says. However, the meteorologist says the storm did fit the parameters for a derecho, which is a long-lived, bow-shaped windstorm that covers a wide area and usually is associated with rapidly moving thunderstorms.
So the winds didn't make the fish delivery to Buffalo Grove. Mobsters and certain politicians have been known to send dead fish to rivals, but that's not the case, either. So what could have happened?
"My first guess," Seeley suggests, "would be a hawk (or gull or other fish-eating bird) was carrying the fish when it ran into the storm and thought, 'I need to dump as much weight as I can and get out of here.'"