Great Blizzard of 1899

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The Great Blizzard of 1899 was an unprecedented winter weather event that affected the southern United States. What made it historic was both the severity of winter weather and the extent of the U.S. it affected, especially in the South. The first reports indicated record-high barometric pressure over Assiniboia (now Saskatchewan) due to the weight of the frigid and dense air. Later reports of the impending freeze were relayed down through Florida by the Florida East Coast Railway.

Arctic cold[edit]

The event started out on February 11 as a severe cold wave in which every part of the East Coast from Florida to Maine received sub-zero Fahrenheit temperatures. The following record low temperatures for February were achieved:

Winter weather[edit]

Snowball fight on the steps of the Florida Capitol, February 1899.

On February 12, snow started falling from Fort Myers and Tampa in Florida west towards New Orleans. Blizzard conditions were reported north of Tampa along the west coast of Florida due to ocean-effect snow. The storm crossed the Florida peninsula and intensified as it rapidly moved up the Eastern United States. High Point, North Carolina, recorded 10–12 inches (25–30 cm) of snow, and temperatures as low as 10 °F (−12 °C) on February 11, 5 °F (−15 °C) on February 13, and 3 °F (−16 °C) on February 14. It was said to be the coldest weather known to the oldest inhabitants. Washington, D.C., recorded a single snowfall of 20.5 inches (52 cm), which was a record for the time. (The "Washington and Jefferson snowstorm" had left 36 inches (91 cm) of snow in the Washington area on 28 January 1772, but that had been before official weather recording began.[2]) Cape May, New Jersey, recorded 34 inches (86 cm), which is the highest single storm snowfall total ever in New Jersey, in what is normally the least-snowy part of the state.

The port of New Orleans was completely iced over by February 13, with ice floes reportedly floating out of the Mississippi River into the Gulf of Mexico. On February 14 the city experienced its coldest ever Mardi Gras reading of 7 °F (−14 °C). The Krewe of Rex Parade was delayed while snow was removed from the route.[3][4]

Also on February 14, the low temperature in Miami was 29 °F (−2 °C), the second-coldest (and the first sub-30 °F (−1 °C)) temperature that the city has ever recorded.

North of the Mid-Atlantic region, the storm weakened somewhat, but it was still a very powerful blizzard. New York's Central Park recorded 16 inches (41 cm), which at the time was its third-biggest snowfall, but many surrounding areas recorded 2–3 feet (61–91 cm), as did most of New England.

There are even Cuban reports (made by the U.S. Weather Bureau, as Cuba was a U.S. territory at the time) that the country experienced hard frost which killed or damaged many crops. This was despite the cold air first having to cross the Florida Strait and its warm Gulf Stream waters. The blizzard of 1899 is referred to as "The Snow King".

The only other cold wave of such severity in the Southeast was the 1985 Florida freeze, which killed the citrus groves in central Florida, and forced the industry into south Florida.