Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

City's White Christmas a 25-Year-Old Memory

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

City's White Christmas a 25-Year-Old Memory

Article excerpt

Byline: Dan Scanlan

Jacksonville celebrates a silver anniversary today, but those who lived through the snow storm of 1989 probably didn't break out the bubbly back then.

Instead, they broke out shovels as the freak storm of Saturday Dec. 23, 1989, dumped 1.9 inches of the white stuff on roads, cars and holiday plans.

The snow cancelled holiday church services, while planes couldn't fly and buses couldn't run.

Motorists skittered and slid as fender-benders fouled roadways and bridges were closed. The snow made national news as then-CBS Evening News anchor Dan Rather showed video of the ice-covered Acosta Bridge.

Meteorologists knew the storm was coming, First Coast News senior meteorologist Tim Deegan said. He was there to predict it.

"Even to this day, it is amazing how well the long-range models did. It didn't nail it, but seven or eight days in advance it showed this atmospheric pattern that was so crazy you couldn't dismiss it," Deegan said. "... Depending on where you were, we had 15 to 24 hours of freezing rain and sleet before the snow hit. And you had the whole East Coast coming through Jacksonville heading south [for Christmas visits] and those bridges were locked up."

Then-Mayor Tommy Hazouri remembers the frozen landscape a quarter century ago, but says there was an early Christmas gift in the storm.

"It was unexpected, but who could ask for anything better than snow on Christmas? It was a beautiful scene, although some didn't like the state closing some of the bridges but it was a safety issue. Jacksonville had the only white Christmas of the century," Hazouri said. "There were those who called and asked where the salt was, and I said, 'Enjoy the scenery.'"

The winter storm was part of a system moving across Florida and the southern Atlantic coast that hit the Carolina coast late Dec. 22, according to the National Weather Service.

While December snow flurries had been recorded in Jacksonville as far back as the late 1800s, the 1989 storm started as rain and sleet late Dec. 22, then turned into snow and ice the next day.

Snow and ice reached as far south as Daytona Beach, according to newspaper accounts. …

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