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Looking Back at the Great US Freezes


_Keith

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8 hours ago, kinzyjr said:

I think that the various regions in the state differ as to which freeze was the worst in their particular area in regard to temperature and damage to sensitive plants.  The numbers from KLAL tend to be a little lower than what we get in town even during advective events, but during one of these record freezes it probably wouldn't matter that much in terms of what manages to survive.  A few recent examples include:

  • 23F in Jan. 2010 vs. recordings of 26-27 in town
  • 25F in Jan. 2018 vs. multiple recordings of 27-28F in town

One factor that the records in these tables don't reflect is the amount of time at or below certain temperatures.

We set a record low of 20F during the 1985 freeze.  It tied the record low previously set in December 1962.  One confusing part of the records shown for me is that the highs are 50 or above for the two coldest days.  I have my doubts that the actual high temperature at KLAL on the 21st was 26 degrees higher than at KMCO.

image.png.389bf8c25f09f8b020ca014bcad61669.png

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For comparison purposes, here are the numbers around the 1989 Christmas Freeze here:

image.png.549ed54ba56ea8be833a0394effb95e5.png

 

Clearly that high temperature for 1/21/85 for Lakeland is incorrect.  That would be virtually impossible to have a high that high with those kind of lows and a high of 36F in nearby (relatively) Orlando.

The '85 event has been cited as the "worst cold wave of the twentieth century for our area" and it interesting how this event, the worst of the century brought only two cold days to the area (highs below 50F or even below 55F).  I consider a cold day to be a day with a high temperature of less than 50F.  Even by Northern Viriginia standards, I think highs in the 40s are considered "cold" (based on having lived there).  North of the Mason-Dixon line, I would go with highs in the 30s as being cold.

Thank you for posting the info Jeremy.  Did in snow in Lakeland in 1989?

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2 hours ago, palmsOrl said:

Clearly that high temperature for 1/21/85 for Lakeland is incorrect.  That would be virtually impossible to have a high that high with those kind of lows and a high of 36F in nearby (relatively) Orlando.

The '85 event has been cited as the "worst cold wave of the twentieth century for our area" and it interesting how this event, the worst of the century brought only two cold days to the area (highs below 50F or even below 55F).  I consider a cold day to be a day with a high temperature of less than 50F.  Even by Northern Viriginia standards, I think highs in the 40s are considered "cold" (based on having lived there).  North of the Mason-Dixon line, I would go with highs in the 30s as being cold.

Thank you for posting the info Jeremy.  Did in snow in Lakeland in 1989?

You're welcome!

There was precipitation during the event, but it doesn't show up as snow.  The snow for Jan. 19th, 1977 shows up as 1 rather than 0.

image.png.2e1d4b3442f3b777ae81772ec9bfcf38.png

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My assumption was that if there was a snow event, it would show up in the newspaper.  This article didn't say anything about it on the 15th anniversary:

https://www.theledger.com/article/LK/20041224/News/608129224/LL

There are some photos of snowfall in Florida here: https://www.theledger.com/photogallery/ZZ/20191113/NEWS/111309999/PH/1

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Lakeland, FL

USDA Zone (2012): 9b | Sunset Zone: 26 | Record Low: 20F/-6.67C (1985, 1962) | Record Low USDA Zone: 9a | 30-Year Avg. Low: 30F | 30-year Min: 24F

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Jeremy, I hadn't noticed that column for snowfall on the charts.  Does the "1" mean that 1" of snow was recorded at that station on 1/19/77?  While the newspapers do not mention it, the official reporting stations record must mean it happened at that specific location and was maybe very localized in the Lakeland area.  Still, snow anywhere in the Lakeland area would have surely made the local papers.

According to my dad, during the 1989 event, I was 4 and we were at the Toys R' Us in Altamonte Springs and he said it was 3 pm and the temperature had suddenly dropped into the upper 20s (we had a flash freeze) and all of a sudden a wind-driven heavy snow began with big flakes and it accumulated slightly.  Apparently, I was fast asleep in the car ("status narcolepticus" lolol, not much has changed there).  Oh well.

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10 hours ago, palmsOrl said:

Jeremy, I hadn't noticed that column for snowfall on the charts.  Does the "1" mean that 1" of snow was recorded at that station on 1/19/77?  While the newspapers do not mention it, the official reporting stations record must mean it happened at that specific location and was maybe very localized in the Lakeland area.  Still, snow anywhere in the Lakeland area would have surely made the local papers.

According to my dad, during the 1989 event, I was 4 and we were at the Toys R' Us in Altamonte Springs and he said it was 3 pm and the temperature had suddenly dropped into the upper 20s (we had a flash freeze) and all of a sudden a wind-driven heavy snow began with big flakes and it accumulated slightly.  Apparently, I was fast asleep in the car ("status narcolepticus" lolol, not much has changed there).  Oh well.

I looked at the Tampa (KTPA) numbers and they had 0.2 for snow, so that column does in fact mean that we got an inch of recorded snow at KLAL during the 1977 freeze.  The caption on the fifth picture at this link agrees with the reading for Tampa: https://www.tampapix.com/snow.htm

We weren't far away from getting snow in Jan. 2010.  I had friends in Land O Lakes that posted photos and videos of it snowing up there during that event.  Some areas on the north end of town reported seeing snow and sleet.  There are a lot of "Snow in Lakeland", "Snow in Orlando" and "Sleet in Orlando" videos from that freeze. 

This is one that looked legit in St. Cloud: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3hm9oknO928

Here is one from near my old neck of the woods: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a4PLo9sHcaY

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Lakeland, FL

USDA Zone (2012): 9b | Sunset Zone: 26 | Record Low: 20F/-6.67C (1985, 1962) | Record Low USDA Zone: 9a | 30-Year Avg. Low: 30F | 30-year Min: 24F

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I thought this was an interesting map of the average date of the first freeze in Florida: 

292C7564-9950-442A-8CF2-6BA774F3CE31.jpeg.be3da4e59303ad80d89e45944301a494.jpeg

Edited by RedRabbit
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Westchase | 9b 10a  ◆  Nokomis | 10a  ◆  St. Petersburg | 10a 10b 

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  • 3 weeks later...

That map looks about right to me RedRabbit. I thought I had seen on previous maps a line farther north on the northern Panhandle of 11/10 average first freeze (north of said line).

Also, I would adjust the freeze probabilities downward a bit for the southernmost coastal portions of Florida.

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In the spirit of Halloween, here's a scary post for the back-to-back freezes in the winter of 1894-1895 according to NOAA data (sheet attached for those who wish to review it):

image.thumb.png.8836e1909b9ceab32ab98e3f48dbc939.png

18941895_FreezeObservations_singleCol.xlsx

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Lakeland, FL

USDA Zone (2012): 9b | Sunset Zone: 26 | Record Low: 20F/-6.67C (1985, 1962) | Record Low USDA Zone: 9a | 30-Year Avg. Low: 30F | 30-year Min: 24F

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Fascinating Jeremy.  While not surprising (considering its latitude), a few of those highs in Fernandina Beach are quite low, two days in a row of 30F.

I didn't even know the Executive Airport existed in 1894.  I have little doubt that 18-19F would be a 20-30 year (at least occurrence) if the Orlando area was rural.  Then again, with all the lakes, as Eric has mentioned, who knows?

-Michael

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1 hour ago, palmsOrl said:

Fascinating Jeremy.  While not surprising (considering its latitude), a few of those highs in Fernandina Beach are quite low, two days in a row of 30F.

I didn't even know the Executive Airport existed in 1894.  I have little doubt that 18-19F would be a 20-30 year (at least occurrence) if the Orlando area was rural.  Then again, with all the lakes, as Eric has mentioned, who knows?

-Michael

The executive airport opened in 1928 (per Wikipedia)  I'm guessing NOAA merged some other data with this under the same station name?  We don't have records here that far back, so that means using numbers for Bartow and/or Plant City to fill in the missing history for a 100+ year average.

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Lakeland, FL

USDA Zone (2012): 9b | Sunset Zone: 26 | Record Low: 20F/-6.67C (1985, 1962) | Record Low USDA Zone: 9a | 30-Year Avg. Low: 30F | 30-year Min: 24F

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Jasper had a high of 22F in 1899.  That is quite remarkable, though I have read that areas of the FL Panhandle saw afternoon temperatures in the teens in 1989.  I doubt these would have counted as official calendar date highs though, as temperatures plummeted as the day (Dec 23rd?) progressed, at least in Central Florida.  The cold air could have already been in place in Northwest Florida though, so some calendar date highs in the teens might have occurred.

The lowest calendar date high temperature on record in Orlando is 36F during the cold wave of 1985.

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I am researching date palm cultivation in Texas and would like to contact Richard Travis and others for information about the freezes of 1929 and 1983 and their impact on date palms.

 

Dennis Johnson

djohn37@aol.com

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4 hours ago, rudi999 said:

I am researching date palm cultivation in Texas and would like to contact Richard Travis and others for information about the freezes of 1929 and 1983 and their impact on date palms.

 

Dennis Johnson

djohn37@aol.com

@richtrav might be able to follow up with you here or over PM.  Good luck with your research!

Lakeland, FL

USDA Zone (2012): 9b | Sunset Zone: 26 | Record Low: 20F/-6.67C (1985, 1962) | Record Low USDA Zone: 9a | 30-Year Avg. Low: 30F | 30-year Min: 24F

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  • 4 months later...

My great great aunt Gen; died in 1986 @ 103.  She lived in Key West well into her 60’s.  She told me when she was a child it froze & all the citrus trees exploded! 

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  • 1 year later...
On 10/11/2020 at 10:51 PM, RedRabbit said:

I thought this was an interesting map of the average date of the first freeze in Florida: 

292C7564-9950-442A-8CF2-6BA774F3CE31.jpeg.be3da4e59303ad80d89e45944301a494.jpeg

This makes most of the West Coast tropical or frost-free microclimate look just as strong as the East Coast

Compared to the Köppen map where only the East Coast has the tropical band not the Everglades or Southwest Florida

Edited by zone 14a
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1 hour ago, zone 14a said:

This makes most of the West Coast tropical or frost-free microclimate look just as strong as the East Coast

Compared to the Köppen map where only the East Coast has the tropical band not the Everglades or Southwest Florida

Yep, the map isn’t perfect. 

For what it’s worth, some of SW Florida is tropical and I’m pretty sure it shows that on the Koppen map. 

Edited by RedRabbit
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Westchase | 9b 10a  ◆  Nokomis | 10a  ◆  St. Petersburg | 10a 10b 

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2/7/1895 has to be the biggest temperature drop/range ever for Orlando; 81/19 !

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Eric

Orlando, FL

zone 9b/10a

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