JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The Christmas of 1989 was one to remember in Jacksonville with so much snow sticking to the ground people sledded down the Dames Point Bridge.
The historic event resulted when arctic air pushed temperatures below freezing through Florida with ice accumulating down to Miami.
At Jacksonville’s NWS office near the airport, 0.8 inches of snow fell marking the second-highest storm total on record. Areas closer to water received more. Jacksonville Naval Air Station 1 inch of snow fell, while at Jacksonville Beach 2.5 inches was recorded.
Snow and flurries reached central Florida with one inch was reported as far south as Sarasota.
This was one of three Jacksonville snowfall accumulations; the others being 1956, and 1986 with the greatest 24-hour accumulation of 1.9 inches in February 1899 -- before records officially began.
It was a rare combination of weather features to generate this much snow.
The day before snowfall on the 22nd of December, a 1055 mb strong arctic high pressure centered near South Dakota rushed cold south. The front marking the leading edge of cold air stalled in central Florida. Temperatures dipped into the 20s around Jacksonville. Low pressure developed along the front and moved a few hundred miles off the Southeast coast of the United States.
By the evening, snow or mixed precipitation began to fall across northern Florida and parts of coastal Georgia. Rain changed over to sleet in Jacksonville, FL just after 6 p.m.; freezing rain began in St. Simon’s Island, GA around 7 p.m.
DO YOU REMEMBER?☃️❄️🌨️ | This is what Jacksonville looked like on December 23, 1989. #30yearslater #NeverForget | https://bit.ly/2SkA19tPosted by WJXT4 The Local Station / News4JAX on Monday, December 23, 2019
A broad trough in the upper levels of the atmosphere carved a trough over the eastern half of North America. Southwest winds aloft pumped in moisture that fed the low-pressure snow machine.
By December 23, 1989, Counter-clockwise winds around the low pushed the arctic front south across Florida with cold temperatures surging southward across the entire peninsula.
By Christmas morning much of the snow began melting.