Remembering the great snow of 1895

Published 1:23 pm Saturday, February 12, 2022

By Skip Rigney

It’s not often that a thick blanket of snow covers the Gulf Coast from Texas to Alabama, but that’s what happened 127 years ago on February 14th and 15th. It was one of the biggest snowfalls to affect our region in recorded history. In some spots it was so deep that it didn’t all melt for nearly a week.

Although Pearl River County did not have any official weather stations at that time, it’s a safe bet that between four and ten inches fell across our county. Nearby snow observations (in inches) during that historic two-day period include Baton Rouge, 12.5; Hammond, 10.0; New Orleans, 10.0; Bay St. Louis, 5.5; Hattiesburg, 7.0; Biloxi, 6.3; Mobile, 6.0.

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If those totals aren’t amazing enough, the snow was even deeper west and southwest of New Orleans all the way to southeast Texas. Houma, Louisiana, received 16 inches of the white, fluffy stuff. Twenty inches fell in Houston, Texas.

Although its validity is still the subject of some controversy, an incredible 24 inches of snow was reported to have been on the ground 20 miles west of Lafayette, Louisiana, in the little town of Rayne. That still holds the record for snow depth in Louisiana according to NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information.

Two ingredients are essential for heavy snow within a hundred miles or so of the Gulf Coast. First, abnormally cold air must be in place. Second, a low pressure system in the Gulf of Mexico must pump moisture into that cold air mass. It helps if a reinforcing shot of cold air surges into the area around the time that the moisture arrives.

That was apparently what happened in mid-February 1895. The week before the snowstorm an Arctic cold front plunged low temperatures into the teens and single digits for several days across the Deep South. The mercury at Hattiesburg dropped to 2 degrees one week before the snowstorm. After a brief and meager warmup, another cold front dropped temperatures back into the teens and twenties in south Mississippi the day before the snow began.

The Great Gulf Coast Snow of February 14-15, 1895, is a reminder that, although rare, Pearl River County can get a lot of snow. But, nothing like that is on the horizon for mid-February 2022. A cold front will be passing through on Saturday, but you probably won’t notice apart from it becoming breezier late in the day. No rain is forecast because humidity at the surface and above us will remain relatively low.

Sunday will be noticeably cooler as the core of the cold air mass gets closer. Despite clear skies allowing for bright sunshine, temperatures won’t make it out of the 50s Sunday afternoon. Sunday night will be our chilliest of the upcoming week with temperatures falling to near or below freezing by early Monday morning.

With high pressure firmly in control over the Gulf South, Monday and Tuesday promise to be beautiful late winter days with cold mornings, plenty of sunshine, and afternoon highs in the 60s.

Wednesday and especially Thursday will be the rainiest and mildest days of the upcoming week as winds become southerly and blow in a surge of Gulf warmth and moisture ahead of an end-of-the-week cold front.