The sighting of sharks in floodwaters is a common urban legend whenever big storms hit. Since at least 2011, the same photoshopped picture of a shark swimming down a flooded highway has circulated after every major storm. It is always quickly discredited. But now there’s a new video, and Snopes and the Associated Press have authenticated it. Taken in Fort Myers, Florida, during Hurricane Ian, an animal that looks like a shark is seen swimming in the shallow lake that was once someone’s yard. The hurricane shark video is officially real.
The cell phone video may never be enough to confirm what species of shark rode storm surge onto someone’s lawn. It could even be a large fish like a tarpon rather than a shark. But scientists and storm-watchers alike are excited to see a version of this trope that is real finally.
Storms and other extreme weather can, in fact, lead to animals falling from the sky. Sometimes water spouts pick up small fish and deposit them on land. In the case of hurricane shark, storm surge likely pushed it inland as Ian approached. The person who took the video estimated the animal to be about four feet long.
Misinformation about storms can obviously be dangerous. Snopes has a whole list of debunked hurricane photos. In comparison, a shark swimming through floodwaters is relatively harmless. In reality, humans are a much bigger threat to sharks than they are to us. We doubt this will be the last instance of a storm shark we see, but it may be the only time it’s real. We hope the hurricane shark has made it safely back to his home.
Melissa is Nerdist’s science & technology staff writer. She also moderates “science of” panels at conventions and co-hosts Star Warsologies, a podcast about science and Star Wars. Follow her on Twitter @melissatruth.