There’s a difference between book smart and bar smart. You may not be book smart, but this series can make you seem educated and interesting from a barstool. So, belly up, pour yourself a glass of something good, and take mental notes as we examine some of the very real, and not at all real, impacts of hurricanes.
As Hurricane Dorian relinquishes its grip on the Bahamas and plods along the East Coast, the Carolinas are preparing for the worst. Early reports from places like Grand Bahama and Abaco are incomplete due to limited connectivity, but dire.
Hurricanes, especially large, slow-moving ones like Dorian, are frightening, powerful beasts. Humans and other terrestrial creatures, particularly those living on isolated islands like the Bahamas, have little capacity to escape coming storms. Our aquatic cousins, on the other hand, can and do swim away from impending weather, contrary to bad horror movie lore.
Sharks, for example, have an incredible capacity to sense and avoid systems. Multiple studies have shown that, before hurricanes, sharks will move to deeper water away from the path of the storm. In 2001, during Hurricane Gabrielle, 14 out of 14 tagged blacktip sharks did just that, migrating back to shallow water after the storm passed.
Their innate ability to detect barometric changes prevents the possibility of any real-life sharknados, but why let good science stand in the way of a bad sci-fi? The classically terrible 2013 horror flick has inspired enough fake news stories and photoshopped pictures to garner an official response from NOAA. In a statement to Metro, a NOAA spokesperson said, “Unlike in the science fiction movies, flying sharks are not one of the hazards with any hurricane.”
Other toothy critters, however, have been displaced by tropical storms. In 1877, a rural South Carolinian witnessed something straight out of a Tara Reid movie when a reptile fell from the sky in front of him.
“On examining the object, he found it to be an alligator,” the New York Times reported. “In the course of a few moments, a second one made its appearance. This so excited the curiosity of the Doctor that he looked around to see if he could discover any more and found six others within a space of 200 yards. The animals were all quite lively, and about 12 inches in length. The place whereon they fell is situated on high sandy ground about six miles north of the Savannah River. The animals are supposed to have been taken up in a water-spout at some distant locality and dropped in the region where they were found.”
Although gators are an extreme example, incidents like this are more common than you might think. All over the globe people have witnessed raining wildlife, such as spiders, worms, frogs, toads, fish, and in a few cases, jellyfish. Even in Idaho, there have been reports of beavers falling from the sky.
While sharkicanes aren’t actually a thing, the destructive power of hurricanes is difficult to overstate. Biblical rain, tidal surge, and 130 mph winds are plenty destructive without flying great whites. The very real implications of these storms are currently manifest in the Bahamas. Relief efforts are just beginning to help the Bahamian people, and the following groups are ones we consider reputable. If you can, consider donating.
Team Rubicon, a military veteran’s organization that provides disaster relief. Grand Bahama Disaster Relief Foundation, a foundation set up by the Grand Bahama Port Authority. HeadKnowles, a well-established GoFundMe campaign that has demonstrated efficacy in previous hurricane recovery efforts. Yacht Aid Global, organizes with yachts in the region to bring in and deliver emergency supplies. Yellow Dog Community & Conservation Foundation, a foundation specifically created to help Bahamians who work in the fishing industry.