It was the only time in South Florida history that snow fell from the skies, swirling over palm trees, dazzling school children and surprising the region’s normally sun-baked residents.
That was on Jan. 19, 1977 - 35 years ago Thursday.
Officially, the National Weather Service recorded it as only a trace of snow. The moment it hit the ground, it quickly dissipated. Yet many people vividly remember that day. To them, it was akin to a raging blizzard.
Allen Greenspan, a criminalist with the Broward Sheriff's Office, was a senior at the University of Miami, on his way to an 8 a.m. class at the time.
"I left the dorm to go for breakfast before going to class, and remember walking out the door and seeing the snow flurries and thinking to myself, I left New Jersey to get away from this stuff, what the heck is going onhere!" he said.
Sonya Sedler Moste of Lauderdale-by-the-Sea was in fourth grade at Cooper City Elementary on that day.
"Our teacher wouldn't let us go outside to fully experience it," she said. "I remember being mad at missing such a historic moment. But I could see it through the windows and thought it was amazing, since I had never seen snow before."
Jim Lushine, a retired meteorologist, who lived in Perrineat the time, likes to joke that he initially thought the flakes were a “cocaine drop had gone bad. But it turned out to be real snow.”
“There was dusting on cars and people saw flakes coming down. But it wasn’t measurable, so it wasn’t recorded as a snow event,” said weather service specialist Bob Ebaugh.
Soon after the snow started to fall that morning, as far south as Homestead, thousands of residents ran outside to see and feel it.
Some motorists pulled to the side of the road in wonderment. Teachers allowed school children to break out of classes to let flakes fall on their faces.
Southern Sanitation Inc., of Pompano Beach, which jokingly put "Free Snow Removal" on its garbage trucks, started receiving phone calls from people poking fun.
But it wasn’t fun for everyone. Because temperatures were in the low 30s, paramedics responded to dozens of cold-related calls.
Many people later discovered that near freezing temperatures had killed plants around their homes. And the area's crops were ravaged.
But for most, it was as awesome as watching a space shuttle launch up close and personal. The bold headline in that day's Fort Lauderdale News: Snow!
What caused it to snow that day? Extremely cold air at higher levels combined with a low-pressure disturbance that created moisture in the atmosphere, the weather service says.
Interestingly, the next day, Jan. 20, 1977, it was even colder, as the mercury plunged to 27 degrees in West Palm Beach and 28 degrees in Fort Lauderdale, both still records.
Although it could snow again in South Florida someday, that’s probably not going to happen this winter, which is predicted to be warmer and drier than normal.
Indeed, for this Thursday, exactly 35 years later, the forecast calls for a weak cold front to drop temperatures into the mid 70s. No snow is expected, said meteorologist Andrew Kennedy.
“It’s going to be a little drier but still warm,” he said. “By the weekend, we’ll be back to the 80s.”
Others who remember that day:
"I was in eighth grade at Saint Anthony Catholic School in downtown Fort Lauderdale. We were sitting in the classroom when one of the students noticed that it was snowing outside and he proceeded to excitedly and loudly share that observation with the whole class. At first, the teacher did not believe him and got upset at the outburst, but eventually she saw the snow, calmed down, and let us go outside to enjoy the unique experience. It was truly an awesome day!" - John P. "Jack" Seiler, Mayor, City of Fort Lauderdale
"Who could forget? I was actually in Dunkin' Donuts, in Pompano Beach, to get breakfast with my uncle and my cousin. We walked out and there was snow falling! It was so exciting! But by the time it hit your hand it melted! Now, when ever we drive by that DD I tell my kids of the day it snowed in South Florida! They still don't believe me!" - Jennifer Black, Fort Lauderdale
"I was on my way to work from Miramar to downtown Hollywood. I was stopped at the light at Pembroke Road and 441 when I realized that rain doesn't swirl around like that and it was snowing! Everyone rolled down their windows and stuck their hands out to touch it. We sat through two lights before anyone moved. We were all transfixed by the sight. Not one horn sounded. It was so cool. - Judy Salerno, Boca Raton
"On the day in question I was on duty as a firefighter in North Miami Beach. I remember listening to the weather reports on TV regarding the impending snowstorm. Suddenly one of my co-workers shouted out, 'Get your dress blue jackets on and come outside.' When we did that, we were certainly surprised to see the snow flakes landing on our dark blue jackets. They would last about a minute or two and then disappear as rapidly as they came. Nevertheless, we will always remember "The day it snowed in South Florida." - Larry Locke, Port St. Lucie
"I am a native Floridian who had never seen snow until that day. I was a junior at Msgr. Edward Pace High School and I vividly remember being in drama class when we learned it was snowing. We ran out and looked up in amazement at the flakes falling and just as quickly melting away." - Susan R. Miller
"I was in sixthgrade attending St. Bartholomew Catholic school in Miramar. I remember hearing weather reports that morning that snow flurries were a possibility. So, when I saw the snow flurries beginning outside my classroom window, I quickly made up some excuse to go to the school office which was located at the front of the school near the front doors. When I got to the office, I walked outside instead and let the snow flurries engulf me. I remember seeing a few school workers enjoying the moment as well. It was truly a once-in-a-lifetime event for a South Florida native. - Michael Suder, Hollywood
"The day it snowed I was 6 and I was with my mom in Miramar. I vividly remember my mom and I walking out to the car that morning as we headed to school and she started screaming and shouting out, 'It’s snowing, it’s snowing!' and she ran back into the house to tell my grandparents and anyone else who would listen. Everyone came running outside and we were all so excited as we tried to feel it. I was so young, and so assumed this was a common thing and 35 years later I’m still waiting for it to happen again." - Tracey Kettelhut, Deerfield Beach
"I was 13 years old and an eigth-grader at Plantation Middle School. I can remember being in class and a student ran in the class and shouted, 'It's snowing!' The entire class went crazy, the teacher lost control as everyone ran outside to see it snowing. I remember seeing a small amount of snow flakes falling from the sky, but being a Floridian and never experiencing this before, it was really cool." - Donald Kirby, Miami
"I was in second grade in 1977, and Ms. Brennan would not let us out of class to go play in the snow. It seemed like all the other students were out playing the snow flurries. Little did I know then how awful that was of her, for it could have helped me prepare for where I live now - Minneapolis. Today’s high is to be about 7 above with the low of minus 4 (wind chill even worse) with maybe an inch of snow. Enjoy the warmth today!" - Matthew Gallagher
"Although the flakes quickly disappeared it was awesome seeing actual icicles hanging from the bushes! Coming from New York is was a pleasant surprise. It was ten days after my third child was born." - Susan Madaffari, Margate
"I was in Davie, attending my school. I was in the ninthgrade. Our class field trip to Lion Country Safari was cancelled due to the snow." - Cindy Jacobson
"I went outside and there is was a very fine powder falling, but the first I had ever seen as a native born South Floridian. First thing that morning at school I had a driver’s education driving test and had to stand outside waiting for my turn. Damn it was cold!" - Mark Bonacquisti, Sunrise
"I was a student at Bennett Elementary, on a school bus coming back from a field trip. The driver pulled the bus off the side of the road and the teacher told everybody to get off the bus. When we did, there were little white spots floating down. They melted as soon as they touched anything, but it was great to finally see real snow." - Adam Glass, Fort Lauderdale
"I was in Airborne School at Fort Benning, Ga., during the month of January 1977. The day it snowed in Miami was the day I jumped out of my first airplane ... and it was the first time I had ever seen snow. Iit snowed in Georgia that day." - Bob Flanders, Miami
"I was in the fourth grade and the teacher let us outside to see it. I was at North Andrews Gardens Elementary." - Timothy Blanton, Fort Lauderdale
"I was 19 years old driving in my '69 Volkswagen convertible on Hallandale Beach Boulevard when suddenly I saw dust particles falling all over my windshield. I was completely confused as I knew it couldn't be ashes from the Everglades, because it was too cold for there to be a fire, and that's when it dawned on me, it wasn't dust, it had to be some kind of snow, then I realized it was snow flurries! I slammed on my brakes in the middle of the road on Hallandale Beach Boulevard, and jumped out of my car. I put my face to the sky, held out my arms, and whirled around in something completely foreign to me, a light snow. Then other people got out of their cars in amazement, and we looked at each other as if we were experiencing some kind of miracle. Born and raised in Florida, I had never seen snow, and I will never forget that day as long as I live." - Fleda Silverberg, Plantation
"When it snowed in 1977, I was in 11th grade at South Broward High School in Hollywood and had moved down from the Detroit area the previous summer, so I knew what snow was all about. I went outside during lunch to see the snow and there was a bunch of native Floridian kids looking at the snow and asking what it was - they thought it might be ashes from a fire in the Everglades, except it kept melting! We were somewhat disappointed that it was melting to quickly to have a snowball fight." - Alex Gibson, Boca Raton
"I was 11 years old. I was in my first hour social studies class at Everglades Middle School in Fort Lauderdale. We were all let out into the courtyard so we could see the snow, trying to catch it on our tongues. It melted as soon as it hit the ground, but it was so very exciting!" - Denise Wilson-Rolls, Palm Springs, Calif.
"At that time I lived in unincorporated Melrose Park and I was attending BCC central campus in Davie. I had eight o’clock classes and because of the difficulty in getting parking, I would always leave my house around seven in the morning. I remember clearly that morning, it was very overcast, low dark clouds, moving quickly with the high winds, it was cold. As I parked and walked to the campus I noticed particles which reminded me of pollen being blown from the fields of tall weeds, it seemed strange. As I looked down I noticed the particles seemed to melt as they made contact with the ground and my clothing, I was confused. Because I had never seen snow before it took a moment for me to realize this was a snow flurry." - Michael Grande, Fort Lauderdale
"I remember it vividly. I was a junior at Cooper City High School taking an American History mid-term. An announcement was made over the PA system that is was snowing out and the teachers should allow the students out of class to see it. We left class and went to the football field. We all stood in amazement watching the snow, and of course, trying to catch it on our tongues! It was a great experience!" - Karen A. Goldberg, Parkland
"I was living at home in Hollywood, still in high school. I was getting ready for school, and it was COOL. We have snow! So I head out to my car where I scoop up snow from the roof and threw it at my mom. We both had a good laugh that day. I moved away two years ago to the Midwest, where making a snowball is a part of life in winter." - Mike Cipoletto
"I remember being in 5th grade at North Lauderdale Elementary. They made an announcement over the PA that it was snowing and the teachers let us out of class to see it. It was crazy to see the little white flecks falling and all us kids running around trying to catch them in our mouths and on our clothes to see what they looked like, but once you touched them they would melt. The worst part about it was as soon as it started to slow down they made us go back to class, that was all anyone talked about for days!" - Mike Schatzberg Coral Springs
"My two siblings and I were having breakfast while our mom got ready for her job as a teacher at Delray Beach Elementary. We all went silent when we heard over WRMF that it was snowing at Palm Beach International. So we all ran outside only to find a few traces of snow on the car windshield. We begged our mom to let us stay home, but no luck. At the time we lived in Boynton Beach." - Kevin McConnell
"I was born in Fort Lauderdale in 1958. I always complained to my parents that “I’ve never seen snow.” The furthest north I ever got was Atlanta. After graduating high school, I decided to attend Boston University. I’d finally get my snow! That was September 1976. So I’m up there in 15 degrees and it SNOWs in FORT LAUDERDALE. - Mark Gross
"The day it snowed it I was a 7 year old student at McNab Elementary in Pompano Beach. On that day, all of the students were let out of class so that we could go outside and witness the snow to enjoy the moment." - Christian Parks
"I was in thirdgrade at Palmview Elementary School in Pompano Beach. We got to go outside and sorta kinda play in it." - Melissa Stallings-Lee, Pompano Beach
"I was in sixth grade at Saint Anthony School. We were returning to our classroom after mass. I had on a maroon striped sweater and still remember the snowflakes landing all over it. It was fun and exciting. Fun day." - Carolyn brunetti fuller
"I was a freshman at Suncoast High School in Rivera Beach. I was waiting early in the morning at the bus stop, we had just built a fire in a garbage can, as it was pretty cold. The bus stop was across the street from a Seven-11. My best friend turns to me a says 'It's snowing.' I was like, 'Your crazy.' He said, 'Look at the lights, you can see the snow coming down.' I was like, OMG yes it is. It was amazing. When we got to school everyone was outside looking at this strange substance on the ground. I remember the newspaper the next day and all of the weather folks on TV wearing t-shirts about it snowing. I now live in Denver and it's still a big deal when I see the snow coming down. I will never forget that morning. It was just like it was yesterday!" - Steve Berman, Denver
"I was a student at Teddy Elementary School in Pompano Beach. My family moved down from New Jersey a couple of years earlier and I always missed the snow. Then on a cold winter day in Florida, the flurries began to fly and everyone in our class was excited. A like coat of snow was sticking (barely) on the grass and we could not wait to go outside and play. Our teacher looked at our faces and next thing you know an announcement over the intercom - Schools Out! We all ran outside and rolled around in the wet, snowy grass. What a day." - Ron Fisher, Sleepy Hollow, NY
"I remember the day it snowed like it was yesterday. I can't believe it was 35 years ago. I was in first grade and I remember the teacher telling us that it was snowing and that we were going to go see it outside. I remember squealing with delight with my friends as we made plans to make snowmen and go sledding and have a snowball fight. We were just kids, and we dreamed big in those days. In the end, we weren't able to make a snowman, go sledding or have a snowball fight. The snow melted before hitting the ground, but we tried our best to catch snowflakes on our tongues. It's something I'll never forget." - Cheryl LaPalme, Hollywood
"Being a second generation Floridian I had never seen snow before, I had just eaten breakfast, got my book bag and headed to the bus stop, I walked about 200 yards and realized the stuff that was floating around wasn't rain, so I ran back home and asked my father what snow looked like, he laughed and asked why I wanted to know, so I told him what I saw, he laughed again and said 'son have you lost your mind?' I said no! I really think it's snowing, so he gets up, opens the front door and starts laughing out loud, hugged me and said, 'Yeah son, thats snow al right.' I will never forget that day as long as I live." - Ken Howard, Delray Beach
"Having moved to Florida the Summer of 1966 from Indianapolis, it was quite a change for me weather-wise! I did not see snow for 10 years, until January 19, 1977. I remember it well, as it was snowing on my way to work in the morning, and before cell phones, I couldn’t wait to get to work to call my fiancé and wake him up to go see the snow! Although I was excited, he wanted to sleep, so asked me 'Is it deep enough to shovel?' Of course I replied no, and he said, 'Then I’m going back to sleep!' I was deflated that he was not as excited about it as I, but I ended up marrying him anyway!" - Patricia Vancheri, North Lauderdale
"I was 9 years old the day it snowed in South Florida. I lived in Pahokee. I awoke in the dark that morning to hear pounding on my front door. When we opened the door we saw friends who had driven from South Bay, FL to show us the snow. They were screaming 'It's snowing.' Of course we were in disbelief, as this could not be true. I went outside with my sister, Marcy, and my parents. The friends left their headlights on as it was still dark. We watched the snow fall in the light from the car headlights, and tried to catch as many snowflakes as we could." - Karen Ashton Justice, Weston
"I lived in Hollywood on Roosevelt Street, just off 27th avenue. I walked out to go to work at Memorial Hospital at 7:30 a.m. and there it was. I had not seen snow since I lived up North as a child. I called my girlfriend out, a Florida native who had never seen snow. We played around like little kids. Needless to say I was late for work that day." - Thomas P. Mayberry
"I was taking chemistry finals at Atlantic High School when it began to snow. The entire class stood up and ran outside. None of us had ever seen snow! It was only flurrying, but we didn't care. It was snow!" - Jenny Howard Kelley, Tennessee
"Who could forget it!! I was working at the Corporate Offices of the New England Oyster House in Dania. Someone came running in the office and yelled, 'It's snowing outside!' Minutes later the entire staff was outside watching this memorable moment. Needless to say, when the boss arrived and found out that no coffee was made that morning and the usual morning routine was left undone, we all went back to work." - Donna Grinos
"It was morning and I was leaving for the office when I opened the front door I thought it was leaves or something floating down (big flakes) but it was snow. I called to my wife Kathy who was holding our baby son and said come here and tell me what this white stuff is. As a South Florida Native she said "this is a first", I've never seen snow before in South Florida. We both sat there and watched until it stopped. On the ground was a slight coat of white. Being from NY I had seen more then enough of the white stuff but seeing it on the ground and in the air in Florida was amazing. I had to step outside and let it hit me so I could brag about playing in the snow. Being my mom and dads 30th wedding anniversary I promptly called them at their Ft Lauderdale home and my mom immediately said "is it snowing there?" I said can you believe it's snowing on your anniversary? We never forgot that date for both reasons. When I got on the Florida Turnpike I asked the lady giving me the ticket if the roads had been cleared, she said "I haven't heard that comment in at least 10 minutes" I lived in Coral Springs at that time and was a South Florida, (Coral Springs/Parkland) resident for over 30 years (1972-2002). That was the only day I could ever remember seeing a South Florida snowfall. I now live in Georgia and see snow usually once or twice a year." - Ken & Kathy Manfredi, Evans, Ga.
"I remember that day very well. I was 9 years old. I lived in Lauderdale Lakes Fl. I think I was in the 3rd or 4th grade. That morning my brothers and I were at the kitchen table, my mom was making oatmeal for us because it was so cold. My dad had already gone off to work, but he called my mom and said to her, "Well Jane. It’s happened.. Hell has frozen over. It’s snowing outside!" My mom looked out the kitchen window and was yelling for us to come look.. It was amazing there were actually snowflakes falling!. Later while waiting at the bus stop with my 2 friends we were all talking about it and sticking our hands to catch the flakes and letting them fall into our mouth's. None of us owned any real cold weather cloths so we were given mittens and scarves to wear from my one friends mom, they were from Wisconsin and had plenty of the stuff. The friend from Wisconsin said that when we got home from school we would all go ice skating on his pool!!..He had ice skates for each of us. Imagine my disappointment when we got home to find the pool had not frozen over..lol..At recess at school we were allowed to go outside to "play in the snow" but by then it had stopped falling.. It’s a day I'll never forget and a day that my friends still laugh about, thinking we would ice skate on his pool!" - Barbara Da Costa, Team Captain-Deanna's Defenders, South Florida Chapter Juvenile Diabetes Research FoundationCopyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun