Editor's Note: Over winter break, meteorologists said a temperature drop and expected rain could cause snow to fall in Gainesville. Though that didn’t come to pass, we at the Alligator wanted to take you back to Jan. 19, 1977 when snow did fall.
Snow! ‘Heaviest snow ever’ causes stir in Gainesville
By Dennis Kneale, Alligator Staff Writer
“It’s snowing in Florida. Class is dismissed.”
With that, journalism professor Jon Roosenraad turned loose 40 students — some of them already hanging out windows in the stadium to catch elusive snowflakes — to celebrate the first heavy snowfall in Gainesville in five years.
“This is the heaviest snow since I’ve been here for 30 years,” Gainesville Mayor Jim Richardson, a UF business professor, said. “I’ve seen a little bit drift down three or four times, but not like this.”
And while the precipitation was far from blizzard proportions, it did cause telephone lines to become “snowed under” with callers talking about the Florida flurries.
Phones on the UF campus and in other parts of Gainesville could receive incoming calls only because heavy phone traffic “locked” telephone wires and kept phone users from getting dial tones, a company spokeswoman said.
One Southern Bell Telephone and Telegraph Company employee said, “The last time the phone lines were this bad was when President Kennedy was shot.”
While temperatures dropped below 20 degrees early Tuesday morning, students and other residents in five apartment complexes were left without light and heat from 7 a.m. to 10 a.m. when a wire fell into transmission and distribution lines.
WCJB weatherman Mel Turner said Tuesday’s snow was the first for Gainesville since 1972.
“As far as I know, this is the heaviest snowfall ever in Gainesville. I’d have to say we’ve got a legitimate snowfall,” Turner said.
Temperatures were expected to go as low as the mid-teens Tuesday night and are projected to get only as high as the mid-40s today.
Alachua County Sheriff's Office Sgt. Ray Newman said Tuesday the snow may cause slick roads in and outside Gainesville.
“I imagine the snow will cause some problems for the drivers (Tuesday night) who don’t know how to handle the roads, but the displaced Yankees we have here will have no difficulty,” Newman said.
Meanwhile wispy snowflakes drifted and stuck onto frigid cars and the damp ground.
Residents in the Village Park apartment complex on Southwest 16th Avenue stood outside in the cold yelling and taking pictures of one another in the snow.
The Murphree Commons turned into a snowball battlefield as students happily pelted one another with the white stuff that’s not supposed to fall in Florida.
About 100 students gathered on the Plaza of the Americas to walk amidst the snowfall — and continue to grin at one another.
Ben Gross was one Northerner who enjoyed the snow like everyone else.
“I haven’t seen snow in four years. I love it. I’ve been praying for it, it’s outrageous,” Gross said.
“People are nicer when it snows out,” Donna Desimmone said.
But UF Executive Vice President Harold Hanson wasn’t impressed.
“I was born in Minnesota, raised in Wisconsin and lived in Norway. I don’t see any snow,” he said Tuesday.
A copy of the front page of The Independent Florida Alligator from Jan. 19, 1977.