PEMBROKE PARK, Fla. – It was considered a once-in-a-lifetime event, and something that nearly every South Floridian never thought they would see.
But that is exactly what happened on January 19, 1977.
Many people reported seeing flurries while driving, even dusting windshields and plants. Reports came from as far south as Homestead Air Force Base, marking the southernmost snow on record for the United States, and the only time snow has been reported in South Florida.
The snow did not last long, roughly only an hour and a half from 8-9:30 a.m. Whatever fell quickly melted, but extreme cold would have tremendous impacts. Sub-freezing temperatures of course accompanied the snow (a low of 31 was reported at Miami International Airport). This wreaked havoc on the local crop, with losses estimated at $100 million in Dade County alone.
The freak event was a perfect combination of two back-to-back powerful cold fronts carving through South Florida, which supplied the exceptionally frigid air. At the same time, an upper-level disturbance allowed enough lift and moisture in the atmosphere to produce the light snow.
If you’re wondering if this could ever happen again, the answer is yes. Though the setup required to accomplish this is exceedingly rare, a winter storm with enough horsepower and the proper ingredients could do it again someday in the future.
While our current winter has brought nothing to the extreme of 1977, it has been our coolest in a decade in Miami (so far, anyway). This winter has been generous with the cold fronts, and our January has had the longest streak of sub-80 degree days in five years.