TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — The Tampa Bay area is no stranger to the occasional cold snap, but it usually comes without the snowfall expected farther north.
However, on Jan. 19, 1977, folks as far south as Venice woke up to a blanket of snow on their cars and lawns.
The snow started late the previous night and accumulated before sunrise, thanks to the below-freezing temperatures. 0.2 inches were recorded in Tampa, but some areas saw 1-2 inches of snow, Max Defender 8 meteorologists said.
The dusting shuttered schools and utility companies had to work to keep the power on amid increased demand. A combination of inexperienced winter drivers and untreated roads caused dozens of crashes.
The chaos quickly subsided, however, as the snow melted away by mid-morning. Afterwards, there were hard freezes in the 1980s and some flurries spotted in inland areas years later, but it did not accumulate.
Tampa nearly saw a white Christmas over a decade later, on December 23, 1989, as part of the largest snowstorm in history for the Southeast U.S. The storm broke all-time snowfall records in Wilmington (15.3 inches), Cape Hatteras (13.3 inches), Charleston (8 inches), and Savannah (3.6 inches).
Closer to home, measurable snow was reported as far south as Jacksonville and Tallahassee, with snow flurries reported in Tampa and the Sarasota area.
The National Weather Service said traffic accidents on ice-covered roads resulted in several fatalities in North Florida. The accompanying freeze caused extensive crop damage including a loss of about 30% of the $1.4 billion citrus crop, leaving tens of thousands of migrant farmworkers unemployed.