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Public Radio's Environmental News Magazine (follow us on Google News)

Almanac/Snail Showers

Air Date: Week of

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This week, we have facts about strange items raining down from the heavens. One hundred sixteen years ago, snails fell from the skies over Redruth England – and the occurrence isn't unique.


CURWOOD: Welcome back to Living on Earth, I’m Steve Curwood. Getting caught unprepared in a summer storm can be inconvenient, but for residents of Redruth, England, back in 1886, forgetting an umbrella may have had painful, and slimy, consequences. One hundred and sixteen years ago this week, a violent thunderstorm darkened the sky above this Cornish town and rained snails down upon the countryside. Impossible, you say? Well, although rare, this sort of occurrence is not unique. Frogs, toads, snakes, fish, and even turtles trapped in ice have fallen from the heavens. All that’s required is the right combination of storm and unlucky projectile. Massive updrafts within tornadoes and thunderstorms can measure over 100 miles per hour, and that’s enough to haul even an adult human being into the vortex. When the storm passes over a pond, a stream – anyplace really – loose objects can be sucked up into the air. These missiles can remain airborne for some time. That was the case seven years ago in Moberly, Missouri. A whirling twister rolled through downtown and lifted cans of soda from the Double Cola bottling plant. The storm eventually dropped the cans, 150 miles north, near Keokuk, Iowa. These types of gales probably pick up many different sorts of items in their path, but scientists suspect that objects weighing about the same, such as soda cans or snails, are dropped at the same time, and that’s what people notice. So the next time someone says it’s raining cats and dogs, duck! And for this week, that’s the Living on Earth Almanac.

[MUSIC: Harold Arlen & Herbert Stothart, "Cyclone", The Wizard of Oz, (TCM-RHINO 1995)]



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