Weather: Winter Gone South

Winter Gone South

A flake of snow may seem innocent enough, but there's nothing more disruptive than the combination of a few million of those flakes. An inch or two of snow in the wrong place at the wrong time can snarl traffic and bring a community to a standstill. A full-blown snowstorm with a foot or more of snow can tie up a region for days. The high winds and bitter-cold temperatures that often accompany snowstorms only add to the woes. Nearly every region of the United States has been hit by a paralyzing snowfall, even the Deep South.

In 1895, an unusual low-pressure system moved northward through the Gulf of Mexico. At the same time, a cold high-pressure area had dropped southward into the central Plains. The combination caused snow to break out in some very unlikely places. Snowfall amounts came to 8 inches in New Orleans, Galveston picked up 15 inches, Houston received 20 inches, and Pensacola received 3 inches. The pattern that caused the snowfall was classic, except it took shape about 1,000 miles farther south than normal. Another unusual snowfall occurred in more recent times, in January 1977, when snow was measured as far south as Miami.

Weather Words

"No cloud above, no earth below—
A universe of sky and snow."

—John Greenleaf Whittier

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Excerpted from The Complete Idiot's Guide to Weather © 2002 by Mel Goldstein, Ph.D.. All rights reserved including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form. Used by arrangement with Alpha Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.