C’est Vrai: Ho, ho, ho, we did have snow
I stand corrected. I wrote several weeks back that there had never been a white Christmas in Acadiana. Eddie Broussard sends a note reminding me that a good part of coastal Louisiana woke up to snow on Christmas Day in 2004, and sends along pictures of his home on Pecan Island to prove it.
Pecan Island is just a stone’s throw from the Gulf and most of us don’t think of it first when we think about snow, but pictures don’t lie (or didn’t before we learned how to manipulate them with computers), so I had to look again at the weather records — which showed that Eddie and a lot of his neighbors did indeed see snow, and folks to the north shivered through a cold, if drier morning.
Most, if not all, of the snow fell on Christmas Eve in that rare event, but it was cold enough on Pecan Island and across much of coastal Texas and Louisiana to keep it from melting by Christmas Day.
The storm was most impressive on the Texas coast, but even New Orleans got a dusting of snow. Weather bureau records note, “a very rare snow event … [in which]. Chalmette [south of New Orleans] was blanketed with 1 to 3 inches of snow, enough for citizens to erect snow men.” In New Orleans, the Picayune reported, “Perhaps the most magical snowfall in memory … [when] in late morning, just after the presents were opened, the skies opened, too. Neighbors poured out of their houses to build snowmen or just to enjoy the crazy-unusual day.”
According to a National Weather Service report, “The event involved a thin band of snowfall with unusually cold temperatures for the middle Texas coast, and caused dozens of varied weather records to be shattered. It was the most significant snow for the Texas Gulf Coast, and deep South Texas, since the great blizzard of February 1895.”
That 1895 stormed dropped 24 inches of snow on Rayne on Valentine’s Day, which is still the record for snowfall in Louisiana, but that’s another story.
According to the weather service report, Corpus Christi got 4.4 inches of snow in 24 hours during the Christmas 2004 storm, and more than five inches overall, a record.
As I understand the technical jargon in the report, a frigid trough of Canadian air was able to dip deeper than normal into Louisiana and Texas and this ran into a wet system from the Gulf — and, voila, snow on Pecan Island on Christmas.
There had been talk of snow flurries during Christmas week, but nobody expected snow on the ground. The Canadian cold wave dropped temperatures to freezing or below at Lake Charles, Lafayette, and across southern Louisiana on Dec. 23, and they dropped well below freezing for the next several nights (28 at Lafayette on Christmas Eve, 29 at Lake Charles; 28 at Lafayette on Christmas Day, 26 at Lake Charles).
At the same time, a moist, low pressure system that formed near the Bay of Campeche began to drift across the Gulf toward the north but still “it was not apparent to forecasters … [that there would be] a significant snowfall,” according to the report.
Apparently the weathermen caught on to what was happening on Dec. 22, and began to forecast “a wintry mix,” which usually means freezing rain, sleet, and a few snowflakes, but nothing that sticks to the ground. A special weather statement noted that Christmas Eve might see “brief bursts of snow [that] could accumulate for short periods of time on rural, grassy surfaces and bridges.”
Forecasters did not expect enough to build a snowman in Chalmette, and certainly not on Pecan Island.
But the wintry precipitation was more wintry than expected, and hung around longer than the weathermen anticipated.
Wikepedia tell us, “The fact that the snow accumulated overnight on Christmas Eve led to a White Christmas the next morning, something completely foreign to the region. The city of Houston recorded the first White Christmas in its history. Across all of southern Texas and in southwestern Louisiana, snow fell in places where it had not for anywhere from 15 to 120 years. … In addition … moderate to heavy snow was also reported over the open waters of the Gulf of Mexico.”
You can contact Jim Bradshaw at email@example.com or P..O. Box 1121, Washington LA 70589.