An account of Tallahassee’s snowfall history

Beautiful views of winter snowfall, the beach and the ocean — Courtesy: Shutterstock — YAROSLOVE_PHOTO_VIDEO

Floridians are accustomed to weather phenomena such as hurricanes, thunderstorms, and extreme heat. But Florida weather forecasters hardly ever mention snowfall.

There have been occasional whiteouts in Tallahassee, with the most significant snowstorm taking place on February 12–13, 1958.

“Democrat editors received telephone calls as late as midnight from people who wanted pictures of their snowmen,” one editor wrote. “The Democrat switchboard was swamped this morning by people calling in to report unusual scenes.”

Locals were able to sled down the several hills that comprise Florida’s capital city and have snowball battles because of the historically significant 2.8 inches.

The Tallahassee Democrat’s main headline read “Young And Old Frolic In 3-inch Snow,” along with a punny subheadline, “SnoWonder Kids Aren’t In School.”

“The reaction of school children to the snow varied but there was a general desire to get outside and play, the school officials said,” wrote John Ray on the front page of the Democrat. “Literally bushels of snowballs were made and thrown before the opening bells rang, and there was sliding on every slope and bank around each schoolyard.”

However, not every Floridian was happy about the snow.

“Many Tallahasseeans who use pine needles in their driveways learned this morning that pine straw and snow don’t mix. It was so slippery that they couldn’t drive their cars out,” according to a column on the front page of the Democrat.

Law enforcement was also called and “curbed the exuberance of FSU students who made a stand on West Tennessee Street and allegedly began hurling snowballs at passing cars.” 

With a temperature of -2 on February 13, 1899—more than 50 years before that famous snow day—was Tallahassee’s lowest day ever recorded.

Tallahassee saw 1 inch of snow on this unusually cold day during a storm that editorial writers called the “Ice King.”

The late state treasurer William Knott told the Tallahassee Democrat about his memories of the 1899 storm, reminiscing about how happy the kids had been over the snow.

“Almost all the windows in the state Capitol were broken by children throwing snowballs,” Knott told the reporter, adding that a fast snowball surprisingly landed on his assistant’s desk and made a mess by smearing the ink of a state ledger.

The day also proved to be devastatingly dangerous for one local. 

“A man got drunk that day and fell out of his buggy and froze to death,” one old-timer recalled in a Democrat article remembering the specific day.

Researchers from the University of Florida have discovered that since 1891, Tallahassee has experienced 33 snowfalls. Of these events, all but eight were trace amounts.

The first detectable snowfall in Tallahassee in decades occurred most recently in 2018.

Due to the icy road, Interstate 10 between Tallahassee and Madison was closed for several hours.

Even though the snowfall was brief—only one-tenth of an inch—the residents were nonetheless thrilled.

“So much fatuous garbage flows across social media that photos of lightly snow-dusted Southern landscapes and excited chatter about frozen car windows pass for refreshing,” the late Tallahassee Democrat reporter Gerald Ensley once wrote back in 2014.

“Not to mention it never hurts to interrupt the daily grind and shake up our routines. So what if we closed schools unnecessarily? Kids should have that occasional surprise adventure. So what if we close the interstate? Drivers got to see the Panhandle towns on U.S. Highway 90 such as Marianna, Chipley, and DeFuniak Springs.”

“Maybe wild weather helps remind us of the role nature still plays in our lives. Maybe it provides consensus reactions in a world that doesn’t offer many such opportunities. Maybe severe weather is just plain exciting.”

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