Is a real-life 'Sharknado' possible?

Over the centuries, the skies have opened to rain forth everything from alligators to pieces of red meat. Perhaps the schlocky sci-fi flick hitting Friday isn't so sci-fi after all?

Eric Mack Contributing Editor
Eric Mack has been a CNET contributor since 2011. Eric and his family live 100% energy and water independent on his off-grid compound in the New Mexico desert. Eric uses his passion for writing about energy, renewables, science and climate to bring educational content to life on topics around the solar panel and deregulated energy industries. Eric helps consumers by demystifying solar, battery, renewable energy, energy choice concepts, and also reviews solar installers. Previously, Eric covered space, science, climate change and all things futuristic. His encrypted email for tips is ericcmack@protonmail.com.
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Eric Mack
3 min read
The Asylum

As "Sharknado" hits theaters for one night only on Friday, it's important to correct the popular assumption that the bizarre b-movie gorefest from schlock studio The Asylum is a work of impossibly silly science fiction.

Yes, technically there has never been a documented tornado that tosses great white sharks into the middle of a major megalopolis, but there have been real-life reports of terrifying animal-infested twisters.

Perhaps the closest thing to a real sharknado is the 1877 report of a water spout dropping a half-dozen small alligators onto a South Carolina farm. The animals that traveled via the 'gatornado were only about a foot long and did not require the now-famous Ian Ziering aerial chainsaw defense highlighted in the "Sharknado" flick, a good thing for the South Carolina man who discovered the gators, likely armed with little more than a mule and plow.

In terms of the ability to do actual bodily harm, perhaps the title "scariest animal tornado of all time" goes to the 1894 report of small stinging jellyfish raining onto Bath, England. Author Charles Fort documents this episode and numerous other odd rainfalls in his ominously titled 1919 work, "The Book of the Damned," but remains skeptical, speculating that the rain may have actually been tadpoles rather than jellyfish. A little less dangerous perhaps, but no less freaky.

Reports of fish and frogs falling from stormy skies are far more common, and even considered unsurprising in certain locales. Of course, such incidents aren't quite on the same end of the terror scale as windsurfing Great Whites. While it seems highly unlikely that a massive, 2-ton shark could be picked up and carried from the sea to the city, we've all seen images of trucks and buildings tossed about by unthinkable winds, so surely it's possible that a real-world Sharknado might be able to at least clumsily fling a shark from shallow waters onto the nearby beach?

Hallelujah, it's raining meat
To find an allegedly true story that inspires a level of gore comparable to that of "Sharknado," look no further than the so-called Kentucky Meat Shower.

The New York Times was among the newspapers that reported large chunks of what looked like beef falling from the skies in Bath County, Ky., one day in 1876. Naturally, with the national centennial coming up and citizens presumably being in a celebratory mood, the appropriate thing to do was apparently to taste the bits of flesh tossed aside by the heavens. Locals declared it to taste more like venison or mutton than beef.

Presumably these locals would have been less likely to sample the fleshy precipitation had they heard some of the explanations for the incident that would later emerge. The most likely rationale for the meat storm seems to be a pack of buzzards flying over the area after snacking on some freshly dead horses. The birds spontaneously vomited the meat in flight.

Other theories that would emerge include the gruesome suggestion that some local men may have had an unfortunate encounter with a funnel cloud while trying to manipulate hunting knives, the result being red man meat strewn around the Bluegrass State.

Now that sounds more like a fantastic, gory sequel to "Sharknado." Better stock up on shark repellant just in case the sharkpocalypse turns out to be less sci-fi than it seems.

Science fiction... for now. Screenshot by Eric Mack/CNET