Laurie Dughi writing in the snow in Tallahassee, Florida, Feb. 10, 1973. (State Archives of Florida/Don Dughi)
LAKE MARY, Fla. - A massive winter storm is brewing for millions across the Midwest, Great Lakes, and Northeast, packing dangerous threats of heavy snow, rain, damaging winds, and plummeting temperatures that could snarl travel at the peak of the busy holiday season.
The arctic blast that is covering much of the nation this week leading up to Christmas weekend isn't sparing Florida as cold air pushes into the Sunshine State. Low temperatures Sunday morning are expected in the 30s across northern and central Florida, with high temperatures only managing to claw their way into the 50s.
For several towns and cities in Florida and the Southeast, it will likely be one of – if not the coldest – Christmas Days on record, threatening the records set during the chilly Christmases of 1989 and 1983. If freezing temperatures mix with precipitation, could we see snow in Florida? Is that even possible? Well, it has happened before.
Has it ever snowed in Orlando?
FOX 35 Chief meteorologist Jayme King looked back at the last 50 years of weather reporting in Florida and found that 1977 and 1993 stoodout as two marquee years for snow accumulations in the Sunshine State.
The 1977 date brought flurries to Miami and accumulating snow in Orlando and Tampa. The Orlando Sentinel previously reported on the 1977 event, and you can see more photographs of the Orlando snow of 1977 here.
Has it actually snowed in Orlando? Yes, here's when
With a combination of arctic air and increased moisture, there is apossibility of winter precipitation: snow or perhaps a rain-snow mix in Florida.
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Has it ever snowed in Miami?
For Miami, it was definitely a day for the record books. When snow fell over South Florida over four decades ago for the first time, the news pushed President Jimmy Carter's inauguration out of the headlines. It was a rare phenomenon that was unheard of at that time. Snow was seen across southeastern Florida as far south as Homestead and even on Miami Beach on Jan. 19, 1977.
The first arctic front moved through the region with temperatures failing to reach 60 degrees in Miami from Jan. 17-20. The National Weather Service (NWS) said that the coldest air and snow arrived with the second arctic front on Jan. 19, with Miami's afternoon high of 47 degrees being the second-coldest afternoon high on record.
The NWS previously tweeted the front page of The Miami News, the evening newspaper in Miami and chief competitor to the Miami Herald morning paper, with the headline "Snow in Miami!" in a font size generally reserved for declarations of war.
Every reporting station in North and Central Florida recorded at least a trace of snow that day.
While the Miami International Airport did not observe the snowfall, the NWS said cooperative stations in Hollywood and the Royal Palm Ranger Station in far southern Miami-Dade County reported a trace of snow.
Has it ever snowed in Tampa?
According to the NWS in Miami, Tampa measured 0.2 inches, and Plant City, east of Tampa, measured up to 2 inches.
The NWS said West Palm Beach reported its first snowfall on record at 6:10 a.m. and continued to report light snow for two hours following. Before then, the farthest south that snow had ever been reported was in February 1899 along a Fort Myers-to-Fort Pierce line, the NWS said.
Yvonne Berry cleans show off the windshield of her car in a Tampa parking lot on Jan. 19, 1977. (University of South Florida Special Collections Dept.)
It's not as unusual for North Florida or the Florida Panhandle to see some wintry precipitation now and then, though significant accumulations are rare. However, a look through the state archives revealed a bevy of images showing snow measuring two or more inches in parts of the state.
According to the NWS, on February 13, 1958, 0.4 inches of snow was measured at the Tallahassee airport. But the total snow depth on this day and the previous day was 2.8 inches, the largest ever measured in Tallahassee with the majority of it falling on Feb. 12. Florida experienced disastrously cold temperatures during the winters of 1957 and 1958 with the Florida 1958 citrus crop experiencing severe damage estimated at greater than $5 million, according to reports (equivalent to roughly $52 million in 2022).
Florida Snow of1958
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Snow on the campus of Florida State University in Tallahassee, Florida, Feb. 13, 1958. (FSU Digital Repository)
January and February are the months in which Florida is most likely to experience snow. According to the NWS, on Feb. 13, 1899, the all-time coldest temperature of -2°F was recorded in Tallahassee, and this remains the state record. The all-time lowest maximum temperature for Tallahassee of 22°F was also set on this date.
The system that had impacted Florida was part of a greater weather event that affected most of the United States, known as the Great Blizzard of 1899 or the Great Arctic Outbreak of 1899. Snow fell in parts of northern and central Florida during this record-cold outbreak, but there are no records as to how much snow actually accumulated. However, there are a number of images from the state archives.
Florida Snow of 1899
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Snow around lake in Jackson County, Florida, Florida, Feb. 13, 1899. (State Archives of Florida)
As an enthusiast with a deep understanding of meteorology and climatology, I can confidently provide insights into the intriguing occurrence of snow in Florida, particularly in cities like Orlando, Miami, Tampa, and Tallahassee. The article you've shared delves into the historical evidence of snowfall in the Sunshine State, and I'll elaborate on the key concepts discussed.
Winter Storm Dynamics: The article highlights the development of a massive winter storm across the Midwest, Great Lakes, and Northeast, impacting millions of people. The storm is described as packing dangerous threats, including heavy snow, rain, damaging winds, and plummeting temperatures. This is a classic manifestation of a winter storm, where different meteorological elements combine to create adverse weather conditions.
Arctic Blast: The arctic blast mentioned in the article refers to a surge of cold air extending from the Arctic region. Such events lead to a significant drop in temperatures, affecting large geographical areas. In this case, the arctic blast is covering much of the nation, including Florida.
Historical Snowfall in Florida: The article mentions two significant years, 1977 and 1993, as marquee years for snow accumulations in Florida. It provides examples of snowfall in various cities, such as flurries in Miami and accumulating snow in Orlando and Tampa in 1977. This historical context emphasizes the rarity of snowfall in the region.
Snowfall in Miami: The article recounts the historical event of snowfall in Miami on January 19, 1977. This unusual phenomenon occurred as a result of an arctic front moving through the region, leading to temperatures below 60 degrees Fahrenheit. The article emphasizes the rarity of the event, noting that it pushed President Jimmy Carter's inauguration out of the headlines.
Snowfall in Tampa: The National Weather Service (NWS) reports snowfall in Tampa, with measurements of 0.2 inches, and in Plant City, east of Tampa, where up to 2 inches were measured. The article highlights that this event was the first recorded snowfall in West Palm Beach.
Snow in Orlando: The article discusses snow accumulations in Orlando in 1977, emphasizing that it has happened before. The FOX 35 Chief Meteorologist, Jayme King, looked back at 50 years of weather reporting to provide this historical perspective.
Snowfall in Tallahassee: The state archives reveal historical evidence of snow in Tallahassee, with a significant event on February 13, 1958, where 0.4 inches of snow was measured at the Tallahassee airport. The article also mentions the disastrous cold temperatures in the winters of 1957 and 1958, causing severe damage to the citrus crop.
Snow in 1899: The article references the Great Blizzard of 1899 or the Great Arctic Outbreak of 1899, highlighting that snow fell in parts of northern and central Florida during this record-cold outbreak. Images from the state archives capture the snow around lakes in Jackson County, Florida.
In conclusion, the article provides a comprehensive overview of historical snowfall events in Florida, showcasing the rare but fascinating intersection of arctic air and increased moisture that can lead to winter precipitation in this typically warm region.