Miami 40 years ago: The weather outside was frightful

Here’s a slice of South Florida history that will chill you to the bone: Thursday is the 40th anniversary of the only recorded snow in Miami. There was a dusting of the white stuff as far south as Homestead in Miami-Dade County, but a quarter of an inch accumulated at Palm Beach International Airport.

No, PBIA didn’t have to haul out the snow plows in order to get flights off the ground. The snow began at 6:10 a.m. in West Palm Beach and was over by 8:40 a.m. Wellington and areas west of the city reported unofficial totals of up to a half-inch.

Some radio stations reportedly began playing Christmas music.

jan-20-77-lows
Lows on Jan. 20, 1977. (Credit: NWS-Miami)

No snow has fallen since then in South Florida — at least officially — although there were unconfirmed reports of flurries in the Everglades during the December 1989 cold snap and again during the unusual cold wave of January 2010.

Even Freeport in the Bahamas picked up some snow that day in 1977, mixed with rain — the only time in the 350-year history of the island nation that snow occurred.

The farthest south snow had fallen previously was in 1899, north of a line from Fort Myers up to Fort Pierce.

On the morning of Jan. 20, the coldest temperature officially noted by the National Weather Service in Miami was 21 degrees at LaBelle in Hendry County. It was 27 in West Palm Beach, 28 in Fort Lauderdale and 31 in Miami.

Agricultural losses added up to $100 million in Miami-Dade County — then just Dade County — and $350 million (1977 dollars) statewide. Thirty-five counties were declared disaster areas.

The Florida Highway Patrol issued travel advisories for ice-covered roads, since water used to irrigate crops to protect them from the freeze splashed on to roadways and froze.

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HOTTEST YEAR: Earth had its hottest year on record in 2016 for the third year in a row, NOAA announced Wednesday. The analysis was echoed by NASA.

Average temperatures were 1.78 degrees Fahrenheit warmer than the 20th century mean, NOAA reported. Record hot years were also logged in 2014 and 2015.

Weather locations change over the years, but NASA said the agency was “greater than 95 percent” certain of its conclusion.

“2016 is remarkably the third record year in a row in this series,” said Gavin Schmidt, director of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS). “We don’t expect record years every year, but the ongoing long-term warming trend is clear.”

Average surface temperatures have risen about 2 degrees F since the late 19th century, NOAA said in a news release, “a change driven largely by increased carbon dioxide and other human-made emissions into the atmosphere.

“Most of the warming occurred in the past 35 years, with 16 of the 17 warmest years on record occurring since 2001.”

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RECORD WATCH: The low in Fort Lauderdale Tuesday was 72, tying a mark for the warmest minimum set in 1943.

MONDAY WEATHER WATCH: After a warm weekend with highs in the 80s around South Florida, things could get bumpy on Monday as a strong cold front rips through the area, according to the National Weather Service in Miami.

“Plenty of moisture and sufficient instability will be out ahead of this front,” forecasters said in their Wednesday morning analysis. “Coupled with strong dynamics and shear associated with the front, strong to perhaps severe thunderstorms with the front cannot be ruled out and will need to continue to be monitored closely over the upcoming days.”

monday-forecast

A strong cold front could bring severe thunderstorms to the Florida peninsula on Monday. (Credit: NOAA/ WPC)

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Author: jnelander

Freelance writer and editor

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