Last week, the world reeled at the thought of a powerful hurricane creating freak tornadoes that would scoop up dozens of man-eating sharks and deposit them onto dry land. The idea of a sharknado probably never occurred to anyone outside of the production offices of The Asylum, until the Syfy Original Movie Sharknado hit the air on July 11th.
The movie tells the (possibly) unlikely story of a global-warming-fueled hurricane that strikes the coast of Southern California. This unprecedented hurricane spawns a line of tornadoes that fling sharks across Los Angeles, and the only people who can stop them are Ian Ziering and Tara Reid. Were this real life, we’d be screwed. (Pinning humanity’s hope on drop outs from Beverly Hills 90210 and the American Pie franchise has almost never worked out.)
However, that got us thinking: should we be worried about a Sharknado really happening? Shouldn’t we be planning for its imminent arrival?
The Answer: Nah, You’re Safe (Unless You Live in Florida)
Aside from bad writing, a lot of things had to happen in Sharknado for the title event to happen. The first thing would be a hurricane striking Los Angeles. This isn’t unheard of, but tropical storms and hurricanes are actually quite rare in California. The reason for this is that the water off the coast is actually much cooler than is needed to fuel a tropical storm. Compare the average water temperature near Los Angeles (ranging from 58 degrees to 68 degrees, depending on the season) to that of the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of hurricane-prone Florida (as high as the mid-80s on average), and you’ll see quite a difference.
Additionally, prevailing winds tend to move tropical storms in a westerly direction, causing them to slam into the Pacific tropics rather than into the West Coast of the U.S.
In the rare event that tropical storms do hit California, they are usually weaker storms than the ones that wreak havoc on the East Coast. While these storms have the potential to create tornadoes, these are often weaker than those found elsewhere in the U.S. In fact, of the 43 tornadoes that have hit Los Angeles County from 1950 through 2012, none have been recorded to be higher than an F2, which is relatively weak and certainly not sharknado-capable.
However, if a strong enough tornado did form, it has the potential of lifting some extremely heavy things, including large animals. In May of this year, Oklahoma was struck by a tornado that lifted up dozens of horses – some weighing as much as 1800 pounds, which is approximately the weight of a small male great white shark.
But Don’t Grab Your Shark-Repellant Chainsaw Just Yet
Even if a tornado managed to scoop up a school of sharks, they would likely die before they ever reached land. Depending on the species, some sharks can live a considerable time out of water provided their gills are sufficiently kept wet. However, most sharks start to suffocate within minutes of being removed from the water, which is why scientific researchers take only a few minutes to tag them for study.
In short, you’re more likely to be killed by a dead great white shark falling from the sky than being eaten alive by one on dry land.
So, Ian Ziering can turn off his chainsaw. Heck, we don’t even know if the internal combustion engine on his gas-powered chainsaw would even run inside the belly of a shark long enough to slice it open. Tara Reid, on the other hand, seems like a far more realistic threat.
So, Are We Safe from Sharknadoes?
Angelenos definitely are. Also, while tornadoes are still a deadly force in the Midwest, there’s no need to include sharks on the tornado watch, considering these fish are pretty rare in the middle of the continent.
However, Florida might be at risk. After all, hurricanes clobber the state almost every year. Tornadoes and waterspouts are not unlikely, either in the middle of a hurricane or just during a strong storm. Sharks are aplenty in Florida’s waters, with the state leading the world in shark attacks. In fact, just this spring, the shark population experienced a temporary surge due to migratory and mating patterns.
So, it’s highly unlikely that this hurricane season will bring a string of sharknadoes to the beaches of Florida, but if it’s going to happen, that’s the place!
Stand your ground? Illegal smart phones? James Franco as a white rapper? And now, the highest potential for sharknadoes in the United States. Just another reason to stay away from Florida.