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The day it snowed in Tampa Bay, 40 years ago today

Tampa Bay residents etch out snow on their car windshields on Jan. 19, 1977. [Times file photo]
Published Jan. 19, 2017

As temperatures soar to 80 degrees and scientists say the earth is on a three-year sweltering upswing in global temperatures, we celebrate the time it snowed in Florida, 40 years ago today.

Jan 19, 1977, the day it plummeted into the 30s across the Suncoast and dipped into single digits in the Panhandle. The cold front dropped a whopping 2 inches of snow, 2 inches more than Florida's average.

The Sunshine State's snow day was both exciting and horrific.

Children loved it.

Farmers hated it.

As magical as a Florida snow day seems, the latter's contempt with the frigid weather is understandable as fruit and vegetable growers suffered near total losses, and many people lost their jobs.

The surprise weather also created a perfect storm on the roadways. Thousands of crashes were reported throughout the state as Floridians tried to negotiate their cars on icy roads, many for the first time.

Then-Gov. Reubin Askew even declared a state of emergency.

Everything. Went. Haywire.

Clearly, we were not prepared for this type of onslaught.

Understandably, the unusual weather phenomenon was front page news in St. Petersburg and statewide.

The craziness didn't last long. The sun came out that morning, temperatures began to creep up, and by mid-morning the snow show was over.

As the planet sizzles to warmer temperatures each year, and we barely are able to break out our sweaters for more than two days at a time, it's hard to imagine a repeat of Snow Day '77. But we can't lose out hope. If we made snowmen once in Tampa, maybe we'll do it again one day.

Until then, sand castles will have to do.

Contact Samantha Putterman at sputterman@tampabay.com. Follow @samputterman.

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