The Biggest Christmas Snowstorm in Florida History

Snow is a rare occurrence in Florida, the Sunshine State, where winter temperatures are usually mild and pleasant. However, once in a while, a cold wave from the north can bring some flurries or even a snowstorm to the southern state. The most memorable and historic snow event in Florida happened just before Christmas in 1989, when a coastal storm dumped record-breaking amounts of snow from northeastern Florida to North Carolina. This article will explore the causes, impacts, and aftermath of this unprecedented winter weather phenomenon.

The Christmas Coastal Snowstorm of 1989

The largest snowstorm in history for the Southeast U.S. coast occurred from Dec. 22-24, 1989, according to the National Weather Service. This storm broke all-time snowfall records in several locations, such as Wilmington (15.3 inches), Cape Hatteras (13.3 inches), Charleston (8 inches), and Savannah (3.6 inches). Even Jacksonville, Florida, experienced its first white Christmas on record, with 2.5 inches of snow.

The snowstorm was the result of a combination of factors, including a strong Arctic cold front, a low-pressure system over the Gulf of Mexico, and abundant moisture from the Atlantic Ocean. The cold front plunged temperatures below freezing across the state, setting new record lows for many cities.

For example, Jacksonville reached 5 degrees below zero, and Miami reached 33 degrees, the coldest ever for December. The low-pressure system moved northeastward along the coast, bringing heavy precipitation that fell as snow in the cold air mass. The moisture from the ocean enhanced the snowfall, especially near the coast, where bands of intense snow developed.

The Impacts and Aftermath of the Snowstorm

The snowstorm caused widespread disruption and damage across the affected areas. Many roads and bridges were closed due to icy conditions, leading to numerous accidents and fatalities. Power outages and communication failures were also common, affecting millions of people.

Schools, businesses, and airports were shut down, and many holiday travelers were stranded. The snow also damaged crops and vegetation, especially citrus fruits, which are vulnerable to frost.

The snowstorm also brought joy and excitement to many residents and visitors, who witnessed a rare and historic event. People took advantage of the snow to build snowmen, make snow angels, and have snowball fights. Some even tried skiing or sledding on the hills or sand dunes.

The snow created a festive and scenic atmosphere for the Christmas season, and many people took photos and videos to capture the memories.


The Christmas coastal snowstorm of 1989 was a remarkable and unprecedented weather event that affected millions of people in Florida and the Southeast U.S. coast. It was the result of a rare combination of meteorological factors that produced record-breaking snowfall and cold temperatures. The snowstorm had both negative and positive impacts, causing disruption and damage, but also joy and wonder. It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience for many, and a historic moment for the state of Florida.

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