MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Tuesday got off to a slightly chilly start for Miamians, but nowhere near as chilly as 44 years ago when, for the first time in recorded history, snow fell in South Florida.

It was January 19th, 1977.

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The National Weather Service in Miami reported: “Residents and visitors were both surprised and thrilled at the rare phenomena, and local newspapers ran headlines which were nearly as big as it would be for major national or world events. Snow was seen across all of Southeast Florida as far south as Homestead and even on Miami Beach. Snow was officially reported by weather observers in West Palm Beach, LaBelle, Hollywood, and Royal Palm Ranger Station in deep South Miami-Dade County.“

Shivering South Floridians, young and old, looked up into the sky in total amazement as flakes landed on their faces. In those early-morning hours, temperatures for the region dipped into the low 30s. But by 9:30 a.m., South Florida’s big snow show was over.

The headline on The Miami News that afternoon screamed: “Snow in Miami!” The next day The Miami Herald’s read: “The Day It Snowed in Miami.”

While South Florida residents, young and old, couldn’t believe their eyes and still remember where they were the day it snowed in South Florida; the cold front that brought the cold temperatures caused severe damage to Florida’s crops. The state’s citrus and vegetable industry were nearly wiped out and some 150,000 migrant workers lost their jobs in the state — including 80,000 in Miami-Dade, Broward, and Palm Beach. Then-Gov. Reubin Askew declared a state of emergency.

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So how did it happen?

A potent cold front had moved down the state late on January 18th into the early morning hours on January 19th. The powerful front combined with strong arctic high set up to our west over the Mississippi Valley helped transport very cold air and led to the rare snow event in South Florida.

In January 2010 there was a very serious cold snap that hit South Florida and there reports of snow flurries in Miami-Dade and Broward when temperatures reached 35 degrees. The National Weather Service announced these reports, but they were not officially confirmed.

WFOR-TV news partner The Miami Herald contributed to this report.

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