Discover the Biggest Blizzard to Ever Hit Florida (Yes, Florida!)

Written by Lev Baker
Published: January 31, 2023
Share on:

Advertisement


Florida is the vacation destination for escaping cold-weather dwellers. But is it possible for Florida to experience snow? As a state known for its warm weather and sunny beaches, it might seem unlikely that Florida would ever see snowfall. Surprisingly, there have been a few instances where it has snowed in Florida!

Prepare yourself for amazement as we discuss the biggest blizzard to ever hit Florida.

Weather Patterns In Florida

car with snow in Florida

The latest snow recorded was on January 16, 2022, when a winter storm brought snow flurries to Crestview.

©iStock.com/csfotoimages

Florida is known for its bright sun and fairly consistent t-shirt climate. In fact, it’s frequently referred to as the “Sunshine State.”

Located in the southeastern United States, Florida has a humid subtropical climate in the north and central parts. South Florida has a tropical climate. This means the state generally experiences hot and humid summers, with temperatures averaging in the mid-80s during the year’s hottest months. Conversely, winter temperatures are usually mild, with average highs in the low 70s.

Summers in Florida are long, lasting from May to October, and are typically hot and humid. Winters, however, are shorter, lasting from December to February, and are generally dry.

July is the hottest month in Florida, with an average temperature of 82 degrees Fahrenheit, while January is the coldest month, with an average temperature of 61 degrees Fahrenheit.

The earliest recorded snow or sleet in Florida took place in 1774 in the far northern part of the state. The latest snow recorded was on January 16, 2022, when a winter storm brought snow flurries to Crestview and other parts of northern Florida.

Over the past 136 years, there have been 80 instances of trace amounts of snow in parts of Florida. While these events are relatively rare, they serve as a reminder that Florida is not entirely immune to wintry weather.

Record Temperatures

Did you know that Florida has experienced some extreme temperatures throughout its history? The highest temperature ever recorded in the state was 108 degrees Fahrenheit, which occurred on June 29, 1931, in Monticello.

In contrast, the coldest temperature ever recorded was a frigid -2 degrees, which occurred on February 13, 1899, in Tallahassee.

Surprisingly, over the years, Florida has experienced a total of 12 major cold waves.

The Blizzard Of 1899 In Florida

The Great Blizzard of 1899 is also referred to as the Great Arctic Outbreak and the St. Valentine’s Day Blizzard. It was a historic winter storm that affected many states, including Florida.

On February 12, a storm brought snow flurries to some areas of the American South from New Orleans to Tampa. As the storm moved across the Florida peninsula, it intensified and progressed rapidly up the east coast. This was a historic event, as it was the first time snow was reported in Tampa.

During this blizzard, Florida experienced some of the coldest temperatures ever recorded in the state. On February 14, the low temperature in Miami dropped to 29°F, with a high of only 48°F. This was one of the lowest temperatures recorded here, with only two other instances where the temperature dropped lower.

Jacksonville had a record snowfall of 1.9 inches, which was a rare event for the region. Temperatures throughout the state were extremely cold, ranging from -2° F in Tallahassee to 0° F in De Funiak Springs. In fact, snow was reported as far south as Fort Myers.

A snowball fight erupted on the steps of the Florida State Capitol, a testament to this event’s unexpected nature. 

Several records were broken in the US, including 51 hours of continuous snow in Washington, D.C.

Damages And Casualties

The weather was extremely cold, causing great suffering among the poorer classes and leading to several fatalities. The Weather Bureau reported that “many people were frozen to death” due to the severe cold.

While it is not clear how many fatalities occurred in Florida, more than 100 fatalities were reported across the country.

In addition to the human toll, there was also significant damage to crops and livestock. Millions of dollars in losses were reported, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). The Gulf Coast states, including Florida, experienced widespread crop devastation due to the freezing weather.

Alexander G. McAdie, an employee of the Weather Bureau in New Orleans, stated that the early vegetable crop was completely ruined. Additionally, the orange crop was lost entirely, and many trees were killed. The cane crop was also significantly damaged, and other types of fruit were severely impacted. 

The Florida Climate Center reported that the prolonged Arctic outbreak, along with other cold spells in Florida, ultimately caused citrus farmers to move their groves further south in the state and abandon areas near Jacksonville and St. Augustine.

The severe cold wave also impacted the transportation system badly, and many people were stranded due to icy road conditions.

Wildlife In Florida

Florida is a state with an exceptionally diverse range of species. In fact, you won’t find this level of biodiversity anywhere else in the United States. However, like humans, many of these animals are not accustomed to cold temperatures.

Let’s look at some of the native wildlife and see how they survive cold weather or blizzard conditions in Florida.

Mammals

Top 10 Animals That Have Shells - armadillo

Some mammals, such as armadillos, retreat to dens to wait out the colder weather.

©Klaus Balzano/Shutterstock.com

During the winter months, mammals tend to be less active as they try to conserve energy. Some mammals, such as coyotes, foxes, black bears, and armadillos, retreat to dens to wait out the colder weather.

These animals may also shed their fall coats and grow thicker winter coats to help keep them warm. It is safe to say that these animals survived the great blizzard of 1899.

Birds

During the cold weather, birds have unique ways of keeping warm. For example, songbirds, herons, and red-winged blackbirds collect and store food in the crevices of tree bark.

This helps them to have a ready supply of food when the weather is cold, and food is scarce. It is important to remember that in every cold wave, birds find it extremely difficult to find food.

Reptiles

Unfortunately, iguanas are one of the most negatively affected animals by cold weather in Florida. In cold waves, residents have seen dead iguanas falling off the trees. Pythons have also frozen to death due to low temperatures. The blizzard of 1899 would have been catastrophic for these reptiles.

However, invasive lizards are adapting to survive colder temperatures than they would normally experience in their tropical home regions.

Spiders and Insects

Spiders and insects have the ability to produce “antifreeze” inside their bodies to prevent ice crystals from forming. Some insects, like monarch butterflies, migrate south to survive the winter. Others, like beetles, hide under logs or bury themselves in the dirt.

To stay warm in the winter, some winged insects that do not migrate will shiver their wings rapidly to increase their body temperature. However, not all insect species can survive the colder months. Many don’t make it through the winter season. This is just one of the many challenges that insects face to survive.

Aquatic Animals

West Indian Manatee in Crystal River

In 2010, 244 endangered manatees died from a cold snap in Florida waters.

©Tomas Kotouc/Shutterstock.com

Even warm-blooded marine mammals can suffer from hypothermia in the winter. In 2010, 244 endangered manatees died from a cold snap in Florida waters. While these animals are generally good at regulating their temperature and adapting to their environment, they can still be vulnerable to extreme weather conditions. 

There are no reports, but it is safe to assume that the great blizzard wreaked havoc on the manatee population.

Up Next:

The photo featured at the top of this post is © Arina P Habich/Shutterstock.com


Sources

  1. worldtravelguide.net, Available here: https://www.worldtravelguide.net/guides/north-america/united-states-of-america/florida/weather-climate-geography
  2. gizmodo.com, Available here: https://gizmodo.com/florida-s-wildlife-hates-this-cold-weather-as-much-as-y-1821776044
  3. wildlife.org, Available here: https://wildlife.org/invasive-lizards-in-florida-adapt-to-colder-temperatures/
  4. theguardian.com, Available here: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2010/feb/15/cold-weather-kills-florida-wildlife
  5. aniimalsaroundtheglobe.com, Available here: https://www.animalsaroundtheglobe.com/wildlife-in-florida/
  6. accuweather.com, Available here: https://www.accuweather.com/en/winter-weather/the-snow-king-blizzard-great-arctic-outbreak-of-1899/1140132
  7. fox35orlando.com, Available here: https://www.fox35orlando.com/news/does-it-snow-in-florida-it-has-in-orlando-miami-and-tampa-heres-a-look-back-at-when
  8. climatecenter.edu, Available here: https://climatecenter.fsu.edu/topics/winters
  9. hernandosun.com, Available here: https://www.hernandosun.com/2022/02/04/how-does-nature-respond-to-floridas-winter-chill/
  10. onlyinyourstate.com, Available here: https://www.onlyinyourstate.com/florida/fl-worst-blizzard-history/
Share on:
About the Author

Lev is a writer at AZ Animals who primarily covers topics on animals, geography, and plants. He has been writing for more than 4 years and loves researching topics and learning new things. His three biggest loves in the world are music, travel, and animals. He has his diving license and loves sea creatures. His favorite animal in the world is the manta ray.

Thank you for reading! Have some feedback for us? Contact the AZ Animals editorial team.