Snow in Florida
It is very rare for snow to fall in the U.S. state of Florida, especially in the central and southern portions of the state. With the exception of the far northern areas of the state and the Jacksonville area, most of the major cities of Florida have never recorded measurable snowfall, have only recorded trace (T) amounts, or have only reported flurries in the air, usually just a few times each century. In the Florida Keys and Key West there is no known occurrence of snow flurries since the settlement of the region.
Due to Florida's low latitude and subtropical climate, temperatures cold enough to support significant snowfall are infrequent and their duration is fleeting. In general, frost is more common than snow, requiring temperatures of 32 °F (0 °C) or less at 2 m (7 ft) above sea level, a cloudless sky, and a relative humidity of 65% or more. Generally, for snow to occur, the polar jet stream must move southward through Texas and into the Gulf of Mexico, with a stalled cold front across the southern portion of the state curving northeastward to combine freezing air into the frontal clouds. While light snowfall occurs a few times each decade across the northern panhandle, most of the state is too far south of the cold continental air masses responsible for generating snowfall in the rest of the country. The mean maximum monthly snowfall in most parts of Florida is zero. The only other areas in the continental United States with this distinction are extreme southern Texas and parts of coastal southern California.
Much of the known information on snow in Florida prior to 1900 is from climatological records provided by the National Weather Service meteorological station in Jacksonville, and information for other locations is sparse. The earliest recorded instance of snow in Florida occurred in 1774; being unaccustomed to snow, some Jacksonville residents called it "extraordinary white rain." The first White Christmas in northeastern Florida's history resulted from a snow event that occurred on December 23, 1989.
Due to larger populations and more advanced communication networks, snow events are witnessed and reported much more frequently in recent years than in historical eras. Interpretations of this timeline must therefore be made with caution, as observed patterns may not reflect actual climate-related trends in annual snowfall but rather improved reporting.
- December 19, 1765: A "white frost" fell in the northern part of the British colony of East Florida "of short duration, and of no material detriment to the agricultural interests."
- 1774: A snowstorm extended across much of the territory. The affected residents spoke of it as an "extraordinary white rain."
- January 10/11, 1800: Land surveyor Andrew Ellicott erected an observatory at Point Peter, a location near the mouth of Saint Marys River, now in the far southeast side of the City of St. Marys, Georgia. After recording a sunrise temperature of 37 °F (3 °C), he observed "snow and hail the whole day" until 10 pm. The temperature then fell below freezing, the wind shifted to northwesterly, and the skies cleared at midnight. At sunrise the morning of January 11, he reported snow 5 inches (130 mm) deep and a temperature of 28 °F (−2 °C). This snowstorm perhaps extended from Louisiana to Georgia.
- January 13, 1852: Snow fell all morning, accumulating to 0.5 inches (13 mm) at Jacksonville.
- February 28, 1855: A few flakes of snow fell at Jacksonville.
- January 29, 1868: Light sleet fell during the night at Jacksonville.
- February 28, 1869: During the morning, snow flurries fell at Jacksonville.
- January 10, 1873: At 7:25 am, a few snowflakes fell at Jacksonville.
- February 4/5, 1875: Between midnight and sunrise on both dates, light sleet occurred.
- December 1, 1876: According to the observer at Punta Rassa, Florida, snow fell for 5 minutes on the morning of December 1.
- January 4/5, 1879: At Jacksonville at 7 pm, sleet began, which turned to rain 90 minutes later. The freezing rain covered trees, shrubbery, and everything else outdoors by morning. The weight of the ice broke the limbs of many orange trees. At Fernandina, snow occurred.
- December 5, 1886: At Pensacola, following a heavy rain and wind storm, light snow fell from 4:25 pm to 8:20 pm, accumulating to 1.5 inches (38 mm).
- January 5, 1887: 1 inch (25 mm) of snow fell at Pensacola, and sleet fell elsewhere in the state.
- January 14, 1892: 0.4 inches (10 mm) of snow was reported at Pensacola. The first snowfall of the season occurred at Fort Barrancas. Monthly snowfall totaled 0.5 inches (13 mm) at Pensacola.
- January 17, 1892: At 10:30 am, sleet fell for a few minutes only at Madison, Florida.
- February 14, 1892: Pensacola reported 3 inches (76 mm) of snow.
- December 26/27, 1892: On both days, precipitation fell as sleet and snow at Pensacola. On December 26, sleet also occurred at Cerro Gordo, Florida, and slight trace of snow fell at Tallahassee. On December 27, a slight trace fell at Moseley Hall, Madison County, Florida. At intervals during daytime on December 27, light snow flurries occurred at Jacksonville.
- January 16–19, 1893: On January 16, snow occurred at Palatka. On January 17, sleet fell at Oxford, and at Pensacola. Shortly after midnight on January 18, sleet began in the city of Jacksonville and then turned to snow and then to rain. That day, sleet also fell at Moseley Hall, Pensacola, and Tallahassee, and snow occurred at Lawtey. On January 18 and 19, sleet fell at Bristol.
- December 29, 1894: Brooksville reported snowfall from 9 am to 11 am, and a few flakes fell at Mosquito Lagoon near Oak Hill, Florida. The press reported snow at towns in middle and west Florida. The temperature morning fell to lows unprecedented in decades, and this freeze destroyed 2 million to 3 million boxes of not yet gathered oranges, severely damaged pineapple plants, and killed or destroyed almost all other fruits and vegetables.
- February 14, 1895: From 6:22 pm to 6:27 pm, light sleet fell at Jacksonville, followed by light snow until 6:32 pm. At 7:20 pm, light snow resumed until 8 pm. Snow also fell at Tampa, and at Pensacola, snow reportedly reached depths allowing for sleighing.
- February 12/13, 1899: At 9:45 pm, rain changed to sleet at Jacksonville. Sleet then changed to snow at 10:15 pm and continued through the night, accumulating to 2 inches (51 mm) before sunrise at 7 am as the temperature plunged to 10 °F (−12 °C). The accumulation reached 4 inches (100 mm) at Lake Butler. In sheltered locations, the snow melted only several days later. This Great Blizzard of 1899 also affected much of the rest of the American South.
20th century (21 reported events)
- December 16, 1901: At 1 pm, light snow fell at Jacksonville; at intervals through the afternoon, sleet followed.
- February 7, 1907: During the afternoon, a light snow flurry occurred "in the immediate vicinity" of the city of Jacksonville.
- November 27, 1912: An overnight period of snow covers the ground and trees with a 0.5-inch (13 mm) layer in northern Florida.
- January 22/23, 1935: Snow falls until the next morning, with Pensacola recording 1 inch (25 mm).
- February 8/9, 1947: A cold wave entering from Canada, accompanied by winds of up to 80 miles per hour (130 km/h; 36 m/s), causes snow as far south as Clearwater.
- February 2/3, 1951: Snowfall accumulates to 2.0 inches (51 mm) at Saint Augustine and Crescent City.
- December 14, 1952: Sleet and snow falls across the northern portion of the state, though there is very little accumulation.
- December 14, 1953: Light sleet occurs in the morning in Marianna.
- March 6, 1954: 4 in (100 mm) of snow accumulates at Milton Experimental Station, Santa Rosa County, within a 24-hour period, the highest such total for Florida according to official modern records.
- March 28, 1955: Snowfall accumulates to 1 inch (25 mm) in Marianna along the Florida Panhandle.
- February 13, 1958: An overnight rainfall changes to snowfall in Jacksonville and accumulates to 1.5 inches (38 mm). Additionally, Tallahassee reports a record 2.8 inches (71 mm).
- February 9, 1973: Snow falls over the northern portion of the state, including a total of 2.0 inches (51 mm) in Pensacola, with unofficial reports of up to 8 inches (200 mm).
- January 18, 1977: The pressure gradient between a strong ridge over the Mississippi Valley and a Nor'easter over Atlantic Canada sends very cold temperatures southward into the state. Areas around Pensacola are the first to receive the snow, then the rest of The Panhandle. Followed by record accumulations for The Nature Coast, the I-4 corridor (both Orlando and Tampa (one tenth to a quarter inch) receive light accumulations of 1 inch (25 mm) to 2 inches (51 mm) with a few isolated spots reportedly receiving 3 inches (76 mm) to 6 inches (150 mm)), and finally South Florida. By early morning before sunrise on January 19, West Palm Beach reported snow for the first time on record, with snow flurries reaching as far south as Homestead. The snow causes little impact as it was of the dry variety, though the accompanying cold air results in hundreds of millions of dollars in damage (Orlando tied the 1899 record of over six consecutive nights well-below freezing). On January 20, The Miami Herald reports the event as the front page story, with a headline of a size usually reserved for the declaration of war.
- Late January 1977: Pensacola receives snowfall.
- March 2, 1980: About 0.25 inches (6.4 mm) of snow covers car tops and patio furniture in Jacksonville.
- March 1, 1986: 0.5 inches (13 mm) of snow accumulates overnight in Jacksonville before melting within 30 minutes due to the morning sun.
- December 23/24, 1989: Light rain in Jacksonville turns to freezing rain as temperatures drop, and later changes to snow. The snow totals several inches in some locations, and results in the first White Christmas in the city's history. Light snow falls across central Florida as far south as southern Pinellas County on the 23rd, though the official weather station in St. Petersburg experiences only a light sleet.
- March 12, 1993: The 1993 Storm of the Century produces up to 4 inches (100 mm) of snow along the Florida Panhandle.
- January 8, 1996: Snow flurries are reported from Crystal River to New Port Richey with no accumulation.
- December 18, 1996: A plume of cold air causes snow to form in the northwestern portion of Escambia County.
21st century (16 reported events)
- January 24, 2003: A plume of Arctic air produces widespread record low temperatures and light snow flurries along the eastern coastline. The snow is described as ocean-effect snow, identical to lake effect snow in that it occurs due to very cold air passing over relatively warm water temperatures. The snow reaches as far south as Fort Pierce.
- December 25, 2004: Locations along the Florida Panhandle receive a dusting of snow.
- November 21, 2006: An eastward-moving weather system produces a very light dusting and snowflakes in central Florida. It is the first snow in November in the state since 1912.
- February 3, 2007: Very light snow flurries are reported in the northeastern panhandle, lasting less than an hour.
- January 3, 2008: Light snow flurries are reported near Daytona Beach.
- January 8/9, 2010: Very light dusting of snow seen in the eastern Jacksonville area. Light snow also fell in parts of central Florida, which briefly accumulated in Ocala and other parts of Marion County. A "wintry mix" of sleet and freezing rain was widespread, with reports of light snow across central Florida from Tampa to Orlando to Melbourne. Isolated flurries were even reported from West Palm Beach to as far south as Kendall and sleet in a few spots in the South Florida metropolitan area for only the second time in recorded history and first time since 1977.
- February 12, 2010: Portions of northwestern Florida experience snowfall totals of around 1 in (25 mm).
- February 14, 2010: 0.5 inches (13 mm) of snow fell across the northern halves of Escambia, Santa Rosa, Walton and Okaloosa Counties.
- December 8, 2010: Snow mixed with rain is reported in western parts of the panhandle, north of Pensacola.
- December 26, 2010: A mix of snow and sleet was reported in Jacksonville by the National Weather Service.
- December 28, 2010: Light snow was reported at Tampa Executive Airport in eastern Hillsborough County at 01:00 and 05:00 local time, following a rare freezing fog event around midnight.
- January 9, 2011: Sleet is reported in the Pensacola area, as well as other places in Escambia and Santa Rosa counties. There was no accumulation.
- January 24–25, 2014: Sleet and light snow are reported in Escambia, Santa Rosa, and Okaloosa counties. Very light sleet is reported at a few locations around Jacksonville.
- January 28–29, 2014: A major winter storm event resulted in a mixture of freezing rain (with ice accumulation), sleet, and snow across most of the Panhandle between the afternoon of the 28th and morning of the 29th. Due to dangerous ice accumulation, the Florida Highway Patrol and FDOT closed several bridges in the Panhandle and advised against non-essential travel. Many state and local government offices were closed around mid-day on the 28th. In Santa Rosa county, officials cautioned that ice-laden tree limbs were hanging low enough to hit vehicles. Between 1 and 9:30 PM on the 28th, 21,633 Gulf Power customers lost power at some point. At 2 PM EST on January 28, Pensacola was 31 °F (−1 °C) with freezing rain while Immokalee, near Fort Myers, was 86 °F (30 °C). Pensacola received 1.8 inches (46 mm) of snow on January 28. On January 29, the Florida Highway Patrol closed nearly 200 miles (320 km) of Interstate 10 from the Florida-Alabama state line to Gadsden County, directing resources and traffic to U.S. 90. Pensacola International Airport closed at 9:17 PM January 28 and was not scheduled to reopen until late on the 29th.
- January 8, 2015: Snow flurries are reported in various locations around Jacksonville. The event is attributed to ocean-effect snow.
- January 22–23, 2016: Snow flurries are reported along the Florida panhandle, as far east as the Jacksonville area, and as far south as the Gainesville area.
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- Climate of the Tampa Bay area
- Great Blizzard of 1899
- Cold wave of January 1977
- 1993 Storm of the Century
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