Several pictures have been going viral showing sharks swimming in backyards after Hurricane Matthew pounded the Florida coast, proving that hurricanes remain one of the most popular breeding ground for hoaxes.
As the destructive storm made its way along Florida’s eastern coast, inundating shoreline towns with water and leaving a wake of devastation, some have used the weather emergency as a chance to spread a hoax that dates back at least four years to another record-breaking hurricane.
At least two pictures have circulated claiming to show sharks that have found their way into residential backyards as Hurricane Matthew flooded areas of Florida. One of the most popular ones showed the giant aquatic predator swimming within feet of someone’s porch.
But as BuzzFeed noted, the shark photos are really the work of someone with photoshop and a bit of time on their hands.
“Most of these images are created by editing two photos together. For example, here’s one of the most popular hoax pics, as compared to a photo someone took while shark diving in South Africa in 2006, which can be found on Flickr.“
The same picture showing a shark splashing through murky floodwaters went viral back in 2012, in the days after Hurricane Sandy wreaked havoc on the eastern seaboard. This time, the people spreading the picture claimed that the shark was in a backyard in a part of New Jersey left flooded by the storm, and it fooled a number of people.
Others recognized the hoax, and some had seen it before. Some readers noted that the “shark in the backyard after a hurricane” picture is much older still, with the first sightings reported around 2001.
Another hurricane, another sharks-swimming-through-the-streets hoax. https://t.co/h0e1NS9HMS— Lisa Tozzi (@lisatozzi) October 7, 2016
Sharks are not the only popular subject for hurricane hoax pictures. In fact, there are so many different weather hoaxes that The Weather Channel compiled a list last year to help prevent readers from being fooled into sharing these photos. The shark photos were used as an example — including the very same one going viral this week during Hurricane Matthew — as well as some others that have popped up a number of times.
One of the most commonly shared fake hurricane photos shows a giant water spout near a landmark, which the Weather Report report noted is pretty much always a fake, regardless of the landmark shown.
“Take a close look at this photo and study the structure of this rotating supercell. This image is particularly tricky because people have been known to take the storm’s structure and superimpose it over landmarks, like the Statue of Liberty during Superstorm Sandy. It is also placed over different parts of the Plains during severe weather outbreaks, so keep an eye out for this image – and if you see it, don’t share it.”
Another viral hurricane photo shows a guard at the Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington National Cemetery standing still through a gale of wind and rain. While it is true that the tomb is guarded 365 days a year, the photo making the rounds was not taken during a hurricane but instead another storm.
Some people have circulated the actual photo of guards during the remnants of a hurricane — which itself is still quite impressive.
Here is the ACTUAL pic of The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier today during Hurricane Sandy: https://t.co/6IBQLos45W— ImgurTweetBot (@ImgurTweetBot) May 1, 2016
And as Snopes noted, there is a contingency plan at Arlington National Cemetery that if winds reach 120 miles per hour, the guards move for their outdoor posts to a position in the trophy room, which is protected from the wind and rain but still has a full view of the sepulcher. That means the cemetery’s guards would never be out in the elements during a full hurricane.
So if you come across a photo claiming to show sharks invading backyards after Hurricane Matthew, be sure not to share.
[Featured Image by Stephen B. Morton/AP Images]