For Jacksonville residents, snow is a rare sight.
There may be the occasional day, every few years, where flurries will fly across the air just to melt before reaching the ground. It happened last year, as well as a handful of other times in the past few decades.
To actually fully experience snow, residents generally have to travel north to a city where it’s more common.
However, there have been a few even rarer times in Jacksonville’s history when the city experienced actual snowfall.
The last occurrence of real snowfall in Jax was, coincidentally, the biggest in recorded history. It came nearly 30 years ago, in the beginning days of the winter of 1989. As rain fell across the city, temperatures simultaneously began to plummet across the Southeast, creating a rare combination of frigid air and moisture.
The rain turned to sleet, then to snow on December 23 as temperatures reached the mid-20s. And unlike in many other instances of snow in Jacksonville, it actually stuck around this time.
The snow lasted in some areas for up to four days, with an average of just under two inches of snowfall across the city. It was Jacksonville’s first and only “White Christmas”.
Despite local meteorologists having predicted its arrival, residents were taken by surprise.
Having never dealt with snow before, drivers found themselves in conditions they couldn’t handle. Accidents piled up across the city, and all but one of the seven bridges were closed due to safety concerns. Some houses would lose power because of branches breaking off under the weight of the ice and falling onto power lines.
While some residents were cranky about the snow’s arrival, most simply enjoyed the spectacle. Kids (and yes, even some adults) took the streets to play in the snow. Some even took advantage of the closed bridges, creating makeshift sleds to slide down the icy roads.
Will it happen again?
The 1989 incident came during a surprisingly snowy decade for Jacksonville, with three instances of at least half an inch of snowfall occurring in the 1980s.
But prior to that decade, the most recent significant snowfall hadn’t happened since 1958. Since 1800, there are less than ten known instances of snowfall totaling at least half an inch on average.
Unfortunately, we might be waiting a while for the next snow day in Jacksonville. In order for it to happen, there must be a simultaneous presence of rain and freezing temperatures. While that may sound simple, it’s something that doesn’t happen often in the warm, dry winter climate of Jacksonville. With global temperatures gradually rising on average, the odds of snow decrease each year.
But while it may be unlikely for snow to come to Jax, consider this: it was pretty damn unlikely in 1989 as well.