Weather gets weird

Popular Science - - CHARTED - by Mark D. Kauf­man / il­lus­tra­tions by Ka­gan McLeod

WE ALL AC­CEPT RAIN, WIND, THUNDER, AND LIGHT­NING as reg­u­lar oc­cur­rences. But the same nat­u­ral pat­terns that cause nor­mal fore­casts can also re­sult in bizarre, ter­ri­fy­ing, and down­right myth­i­cal phe­nom­ena. Here are some of the strangest effects of ex­treme weather that hu­mans have ever ob­served.

Wall Buster

A mile-wide tor­nado that hit Jo­plin, Mis­souri, in 2011 flat­tened neigh­bor­hoods into piles of wood and rub­bish— and em­bed­ded a kitchen chair deep into the ex­te­rior wall of a store. Hurled by winds over 200 mph, the legs hit the stucco like fly­ing spears.

Frog Fall

Water­spouts—vor­texes that pull wa­ter into tor­nado­like col­umns—can also suck up ob­jects. In 2005, a spout rudely plucked thou­sands of frogs from their cozy aquatic homes and dropped them from the sky over the nearby town of Odzaci, Ser­bia.

Blood Rain

In 2013, crim­son rain drenched the coastal In­dian state of Ker­ala. The cause: red al­gal spores, likely trans­ported from the ocean to rain clouds by strong winds. The not-un­com­mon oc­cur­rence stained cloth­ing and col­lected in what looked like pud­dles of blood.

Bug­nado

In 2014, a pho­tog­ra­pher cap­tured a 1,000-foot-tall fun­nel of in­sects (prob­a­bly lo­custs) over Vila Franca de Xira, Por­tu­gal. Small wind ed­dies can pull in midges, but larger “bug­na­does” usu­ally re­sult from op­ti­cal il­lu­sions or swarms rather than weather.

Pa­per Trail

A tor­nado’s up­drafts can hurl pa­pers and other light de­bris 20,000 feet into the air and carry them miles away. The far­thest recorded jour­ney hap­pened in 1915, when a per­sonal check from Great Bend, Kansas, trav­eled about 200 miles to Palmyra, Ne­braska.

Great Balls of Ice

In 2010, huge hail­stones rained on Vi­vian, South Dakota. One broke U.S. records with a weight of nearly 2 pounds. Nor­mally the size of mar­bles, these stones got tossed around longer, and coated in ex­tra ice, by the storm’s up­drafts.

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