No foolin': These 6 weather phenomena have really happened

By Kevin Byrne,
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For centuries, April 1, or April Fools' Day as it's known, has been a day full of pranks, hoaxes and plain old practical jokes.

Sometimes, even if the date isn't April 1, it can appear like Mother Nature is playing a joke on humanity as there have been numerous bizarre weather happenings over the years.


Here are six weather events that might seem like April Fools' jokes, but, in fact, really happened:

The portmanteau may sound like it hails from the same fictional realm as Sharknado, but unlike the concept for the series of campy TV movies, a firenado is all too real -- and can have especially devastating results. A rare firenado was caught on video ravaging the open spaces of Lassen County in Northern California near the Nevada border in August 2020.

An unusual set of circumstances must unfold for a firenado to form, including extremely hot air from a wildfire rising and becoming twisted by winds that are changing direction, much like the more common types of tornadoes we're all familiar with. The big difference between a regular tornado and a firenado is that the rotating winds combine with smoke plumes to pull flames up into the funnel and create especially dangerous conditions.


January is often the time of year when snowstorms are the biggest concern on forecasters' radars. However, in January 2016, an unusual sight popped up in the Atlantic: a hurricane.

Tropical systems most often form between June 1 and Nov. 30, the official start and end dates of the Atlantic hurricane season. In recent years, more storms have started forming in the weeks ahead, such as in May or late April. But January? That's nearly unheard of.

Subtropical Storm Alex developed over the open Atlantic on Jan. 13, 2016, about 785 miles southwest of the Azores, an island chain in the northern Atlantic. Remarkably, Alex continued to strengthen and eventually became a Category 1 hurricane the next day. A hurricane warning was issued for the Azores, and Alex eventually made landfall in the islands, but as a tropical storm, on Jan. 15.

Alex was the first Atlantic hurricane to form in January since 1938 and the first Atlantic hurricane to exist during January since Alice in 1955. Alice had formed in December 1954 but remained active until January.


Many have heard the phrase "It's raining cats and dogs" to describe a torrential downpour, a clearly implausible happening.

But raining fish? It turns out, that can and has happened.

Yes, it's true. But not quite a torrent of sea life like the frogs that rained down at the end of the movie Magnolia. But it did happen on Dec. 29, 2021, in the east Texas city of Texarkana.

"Storm rains bushels of fish on Texarkana" read the headline on the Texarkana Gazette website.

A couple of thunderstorms had moved through the region and a number of residents reported hearing loud noises and seeing dozens of fish - we're not sure what kind -- fall from the sky, bouncing off the concrete and grass during a brief passing shower. One resident said at one point it was hailing, then all of a sudden fish are plummeting down to Earth, according to the Gazette. the odor of dead fish wafting through the air. The fish may have been sucked up by a water spout -- a rare weather phenomenon that moves over water -- which later lost steam and released all of the fish.


When lightning is observed during thunderstorms, the bolts of electricity are often seen shooting from the clouds and toward the ground. But while cloud-to-ground lighting is what people most often see in the sky, lightning can move in other directions too.

On Tuesday, March 29, 2022, footage of lightning that appeared to flip upside down in the skies over Wichita, Kansas, went viral.

"It was a really impressive display of what we call lightning-triggered upward lightning," said lightning expert Chris Vagasky, who works for Vaisala, a Finnish company that manufactures weather and environmental instruments. Vagasky also added that "to see one like this was a little bit surprising."

According to Ferrell, these flashes are also called "ground-to-cloud" lightning strikes.

A radar image shows a bomb cyclone bearing down on the Pacific Northwest and western Canada in October 2022.

Readers may think we don't see their comments on Twitter, but we do. And we've seen some of you suggesting we're just making up new weather terms. Literally, in October 2021, one of you said, "They're just out here making up weather words at this point." Others came away with a similar perception at the time, but we promise -- it's is a real thing. A "bomb cyclone," or the process of bombogenesis, in weather parlance, occurs when a storm reaches certain meteorological benchmarks associated with unusual rapid strengthening. When a storm's central barometric pressure plunges 0.71 of an inch of mercury in 24 hours or less, the magic benchmark has been hit and we have a bomb cyclone.


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