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The Big Freeze of 1899

February 1899:

Having rained the entire afternoon and early evening of February 12th, the rain changed to sleet and then later to snow. Jacksonville would actually receive snow for the remainder of the night. By sunrise of the next day, the ground was covered in two inches of snow and the temperature stood around 10 degrees. The temperature did not rise above 27 degrees all day. The snow remained in some places for up to five days and the vegetable crops, fruit trees and some forest trees were destroyed beyond recovery. The plumbing of the city was badly damaged resulting in two months of repairs throughout the city.

This was the coldest weather since the freeze of 1835, when at 8am the temperature stood at 8 degrees. Along the river, the bank water was frozen several rods from the shore and it is reported that Jacksonville citizens were both excited and distressed over this weather anomaly. The 1835 freeze was the basis for all subsequent comparisons until January 21, 1985 when the temperature fell to 7!

“The lowest temperature ever recorded in Jacksonville, Florida was on February 8, 1835 when it fell to 8 degrees F. Scarcely a winter passes without a temperature at some time as low as freezing.

Extreme cold spells (known as cold waves) usually last two days and then give way to more moderate temperature. Snow (mostly light flurries) has occurred at Jacksonville on an average of once every seven years. The average first frost in autumn comes in the first week of November and the last in spring the third week of March.

Our winter climate has been the subject of song and story so long that it is well known throughout the country; but our summer climate is not so well understood, nor generally appreciated even by our native inhabitants.”

– History of Jacksonville, Florida and Vicinity 1513-1924 by T. Frederick Davis

Among the wonderful artifacts, documents and photos the JHS Archives has in its collection is an amazing array of images of life in Jacksonville during the Big Freeze of 1899.

If you have any images or information you would like to share, please do not hesitate to contact us! Not to mention, 1899 was not the last time Jacksonville saw snow! If you remember the snow of 1989, or have photos you would like to share, please contact the archives here!

If you would like to see more record breaking weather reports, please visit the National Weather Service Weather Forecast page for Jacksonville, FL here.