White Christmas? History proves, it's possible here

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By: Charles Roop | WCTV Eyewitness News
December 21, 2017

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) -- When one thinks of Christmas, there is one element that is usually included. It's not just Santa, Christmas lights, or eggnog. Snow is the other element. However, places like South Georgia and the Big Bend usually don't encounter snow so much, especially over the holiday.

But our area has encountered snow a handful of times, and there are those who have lived here long enough to remember it.

An arctic cold front moved through the Southeast on Dec. 21-22, 1989. This brought temperatures in the 20s and 30s across much of our area on the morning of Dec. 22. Meanwhile, a deep trough in the upper levels of the atmosphere was moving eastward across the U.S. As the trough moved in, it brought moisture along with it. This moisture led to the rain and snow over much of the area.

The snow started on the night of Dec. 22, according to the National Weather Service.

"We were having a Sunday school party, and it was accumulating on the deck," Debbi Miller, of Cairo, said. "And they were grilling burgers on the deck."

Miller said that the children at the party on that Dec. 22, which ranged in ages from 9 to 12, were outside looking up at the snow.

Cairo, Georgia got the most snow from that event - 6 inches - according to the National Weather Service.

Allison Barber, who was six years old at the time, was excited to see it fall in Cairo.

"We were surprised and excited,” Barber said. “I have an older sister and she was about ten and I remember going out in the yard and we were building snowmen."

Joe Ward, who logs sports stats for Cairo High School, was working a basketball tournament at the time in Bainbridge when the snow started to fall during the sporting event after dark. Ward rode back to Cairo on the team bus in the snow. The boys and girls teams had different reactions to the snow.

"When everybody got out of the bus, the girls' team [just] b-lined it right back inside,” Ward said. “The boy's team on the other hand - when they got out and they saw what was happening - it was snow ball fight time, which was simply hysterical."

And it wasn't just Cairo that had snow ball fights. Even WCTV’s old studio on County Road 12 north of Tallahassee was covered with snow. Retired anchor Frank Ranicky remembers the snow ball fights out in the parking lot.

"You could see these big feathery flakes of snow covering the ground enough to where - you know - you spontaneously turn into a kid and - what do you want to do? You want to hit somebody with a snow ball,” Ranicky said.

Tallahassee picked up an inch of snow, covering the roads, and making travel a nightmare as there were accidents reported that night the snow fell.

The storm was unique, but it's not the only on record. Our research shows that Tallahassee got a trace around Christmas (between the 20th and 27th of the month) in 1976, 1995, and in 2010. Valdosta had a trace of snow in 2010, while Apalachicola had a trace of snow in 2004 and 1989.

Cairo saw snow once again a couple of days before Valentine’s Day in 2010.

Debbi Miller moved from the Washington, D.C. area to back Cairo to escape the snow only to see some again in 1989. She wouldn't mind a repeat of that winter, as long as it comes and goes.

"Everybody thinks snow is magical,” Miller said. “And there's nothing like waking up in the morning and looking out the window because everything looks like it's just been purified."