“Wake up Bernie, it’s snowing!”; 40 years ago today snow fell in Palm Beach County and it was magical

Forty years ago this week, the atmosphere rose like a tent pole off the coast of California, pushing high pressure deep into the frigid reaches of northern Canada and sending potent arctic air plummeting to the tropics.

The unusual pattern turned the polar jet stream into a twisting river of powerful winds sweeping south over the warm Gulf of Mexico and into South Florida where climate history was made.

On the morning of Jan. 19, 1977, snow fell in Palm Beach County.

The front page weather story on Jan. 20, 1977 began like this: Record-shattering cold that created heavy snow flurries for the first time ever in Palm Beach County also caused a flurry of problems with crops freezing, schools closing, power failing and ducks dying.

The front page weather story on Jan. 20, 1977 began like this: Record-shattering cold that created heavy snow flurries for the first time ever in Palm Beach County also caused a flurry of problems with crops freezing, schools closing, power failing and ducks dying.

It was the day before a peanut farmer would be inaugurated as the 39th president of the United States — a time before weather events were politicized, analyzed, dissected, sucked dry of magic and wonder.

In 1977, it was just snow in South Florida, and it was enchanting.

Joe Vidulich was a 27-year-old meteorological technician at the federal weather office then stationed at the airport. He said he was working the midnight to 8 a.m. shift on Jan. 19, and while snow was expected in Central and North Florida, he didn’t think it would make it to Palm Beach County and beyond.

“I went outside to take an observation and I noticed these particles flying by. At first I thought they were bugs, but it was snow,” Vidulich said. “I ran back inside so excited and my partner was sleeping in a chair. I said, ‘Wake up Bernie, it’s snowing.’ He said, ‘You must be drunk.’”

Read the rest of the story and more South Florida memories of the snow here. 

 

Joe Johnson's 1971 Chevelle collected snow on Jan. 19, 1977 in South Dade.

Joe Johnson’s 1971 Chevelle collected snow on Jan. 19, 1977 in South Dade.

Joe Vidulich was working at the weather station at Palm Beach International Airport when it snowed on Jan. 19, 1977. He made the first official observatoin of snow in West Palm Beach.

Joe Vidulich was working at the weather station at Palm Beach International Airport when it snowed on Jan. 19, 1977. He made the first official observatoin of snow in West Palm Beach.

A note to parents about the additional day added to the school year in 1977 because of the snow day. Courtesy Thomas Switzer

A note to parents about the additional day added to the school year in 1977 because of the snow day. Courtesy Thomas Switzer

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