Although snow along the Gulf Coast is a bit of a phenomenon, it does occur, but unfortunately seldom in December. There have been a few exceptions.
On Dec. 31, 1962, Mobile welcomed in 1963 with a record 2-inch snowfall. An even rarer case was Christmas Eve in 2004 when the city had a dusting. While it was a memorable event, rising temperatures left very little of the white stuff come Christmas morning.
A holiday in Mobile which has a far greater chance of a snowfall seems to be Valentine’s Day. In fact, Mobile had a snow flurry on the night of Feb. 14, 1895. As the next day dawned, little evidence remained and Mobilians were surprised with yet another flurry that afternoon. This was no dusting however, and by 6 p.m. the accumulation had snarled traffic and stranded electric trolley cars. By 9 o’clock that night, more than 6 inches had fallen – a record yet to be broken.
Citizens awoke to find the oaks in Bienville fountain heavily laden with snow, while the basins of the Ketchum Fountain were ringed with long icicles. Mobilians removed the wheels from wagons and replaced them with boards for runners and went sleighing. The only casualty reported was a man who slipped and sprained his elbow.
Nearly 80 years later, a snowstorm struck again, this time on Feb. 9, 1973. Following several days of temperatures in the mid 70s, the day dawned with a steady rain at a brisk 34 degrees. By that afternoon, it was sleeting, and between 7 p.m. and midnight nearly 2 inches of snow had fallen atop an icy base. To the delight of some, and the distress of others, cold temperatures kept the snow around the next day.
The icy rain snapped power lines and caused countless accidents due to slick roads and overpasses. As temperatures stayed well below freezing, homeowners found pipes frozen, while cars left uncovered were encased in ice. Despite these headaches, children of all ages built snowmen, while others used sheets of cardboard for makeshift sleds.
The last recorded snowfall in Mobile fell close to Valentine’s Day once more: Feb. 12, 2010.
The weather along the Gulf Coast is never dull, and this Christmas could be a rare white one or yet another day to turn on the air-conditioning. Only time will tell.
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text by Tom McGehee