On January 19, 1977, it snowed in Miami.
Forecaster Ray Biedinger looked at the screen of his trusty weather radar in the wee hours of Jan. 19, 1977, and knew what he had to do. The bitter cold front barreling south across the state during his midnight shift at the old National Weather Service office, then in Coral Gables, left him no choice but to issue one of Miami’s most unusual forecasts:
“Cold with rain showers and the possibility of snow,” Biedinger wrote.
“If you notice, I didn’t put snow first,” he said.
But he got it right.
In the 122 years of recorded weather events before and since, that is still the only confirmed instance of actual snowfall in the Magic City. So on this #ThrowbackThursday, let’s remember 60 years ago today.
“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 snowflakes 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
The rare event remains a special memory for those who witnessed it. Hurricanes come and go, but snow in Miami? That’s once in a lifetime. “I remember it like it was yesterday, ” said Matt Levinson, of Weston. He was 5 at the time and living in Southwest Miami-Dade. “I remember standing on the front lawn of my house and as the snow was falling, I tried picking it up, but it melted as soon as it hit the ground, ” said Levinson.
“I was working at WAXY-106. Someone said something about seeing snow coming down, ” said [Rick] Shaw… “We ran back to a big window and, my gosh if it wasn’t snowing in Fort Lauderdale! Being from St. Louis, I knew what snow looked like. I ran back into the studio and started playing Bing Crosby’s White Christmas.”
He said listeners who didn’t see or feel those fine granules were calling the station and asking why they were playing that song in the middle of January.
“Cause it’s snowing outside!” Shaw told them. “It was quite a day.”
“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 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
“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
Jim Lushine, a retired meteorologist, who lived in Perrine at 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.”
“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
“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” – Ken & Kathy Manfredi
So just remember, next time anyone wants to make fun of how Miamians prepare for winter… it could happen. It could snow again in Miami!