A message traced out of the thin layer of “white stuff” fallen on the hood of a car from 1977 perhaps captured the temperature of Jan. 19 the best “Brrr!”
On this day 44 years ago Orlandoans woke up to an Arctic front and frigid conditions cold enough to produce a miraculous phenomenon — snow in Florida.
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A strong cold front moved rapidly down the Florida peninsula Jan. 18 and through the dark early hours of Jan. 19. Down south, rain mixed with snow and fell as snow flurries across Broward and Miami-Dade counties between 8 and 9:30 a.m., according to the National Weather Service.
Ralph and Tina Macre play in the snow on their car in Orlando. It snowed in Central Florida on January 19, 1977. (Red Huber, Orlando Sentinel)
Central Florida recorded a trace of the white stuff, which gathered on surfaces, while Plant City measured 2 inches of snow.
Orlando residents were stunned but weren’t frozen in place as snow gathered on the surface of the Sunshine State. Rather, they acted in ways they’ve seen northern neighbors behave in movies by tracing snow flurries on cars, rolling up snowballs and firing them at a delighted enemy.
The front page headline of the now defunct Miami News captured the surprise of many Floridians: “Snow in Miami!”
Orlando’s high reached 47 degrees — the second-coldest afternoon high temperature in the city’s history, according to the National Weather Service. The coldest day in Orlando’s history occurred decades earlier when temperatures dropped to 18 degrees in 1894. As for snow, snow flurries have been seen in northern Florida as recent as 2017, but 1977 on average was recorded as one of the coldest years in the United States, according to The Weather Channel.
While the arrival of snowflakes brought wonder and happiness to most, the presence of a colder climate was not good news for all in Central Florida; namely farmers.
Winter Haven received 2 inches of snow much to the dismay of growers who reported 35% of Florida’s citrus crops being damaged, according to The Weather Channel. On Jan. 21, 1977, the same day that President Jimmy Carter took office, the Sentinel Star’s front page broke the news that the orange loss was estimated at 50 million boxes – roughly one-fourth of the estimated crop for that season. Rolling blackouts were reported as Florida’s electrical grid was stretched to the limit with residents pushing their heaters’ potential output to the max.
Temperatures dropped further on Jan. 20 with a second front that brought colder temperatures brining Orlando down to a low of 20 degrees.