QUANAH, Texas — Nothing seemed unusual Wednesday when the National Weather Service Forecast Office in Norman, Oklahoma, picked up what appeared to be rainclouds over western North Texas.
Nothing unusual … except the clouds weren’t rain.
“We didn’t have any clouds yesterday to form anything like that,” said Jonathan Kurtz, a meteorologist at the Norman Forecast Office. “Our first indication was some kind of biological feature.”
What the radar was picking up was bugs, lots and lots of them. Grasshoppers and beetles were flying between the ground and 2,500 feet, covering an area of about 50 miles.
The weather service called the Copper Breaks State Park in Quanah, Texas, to confirm.
Grasshoppers and beetles are common in the agricultural area of Texas, said David Turner, park manager.
“We have grasshoppers and beetles around here but not anything more than usual,” he said.
Visitors to the state park would have spotted bugs flying around them but, looking to the sky, would not have seen the swarm. The bugs were flying at different elevations, not in a massive cloud as it appeared on radar.
“It doesn’t take a whole lot of bugs to cause that on radar,” Kurtz said. “It’s not like biblical proportions. There was just enough out there that the radar picked it up.”
The same cannot be said for drivers on the Savanna-Sabula Bridge near Sabula, Iowa, where thousands of mayflies covered cars and the bridge on Saturday. There were so many, in fact, that a snowplow was called in to clear the roadway.