National Weather Service United States Department of Commerce

Remembering the Great Arctic Outbreak of February 1899


The stage was set for the very cold conditions in February, 1899, by a series of cold high pressure systems that moved southward out of Canada during the first two weeks of the month. The cold finally culminated the morning of February 13th as a final massive arctic high brought frigid temperatures to Alabama and the Gulf Coast. 


Prior to the arrival of the massive arctic high, cold air was already entrenched in the northern Gulf Coastal states the morning of Sunday, February 12th.  At the same time, a developing low pressure system was located in the northwestern Gulf of Mexico with a stationary frontal boundary extending eastward from it across north-central Florida into the Atlantic Ocean.  Meanwhile, the leading edge of the final and most frigid air mass was pushing into the central portions of Alabama with the center of the  massive arctic high pressure system located in eastern Wyoming.  During the day Sunday, the low pressure system moved eastward across the Northern Gulf of Mexico, with snow falling to the north of it from Southeast Louisiana northeast across portions of Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia and the Florida Panhandle, with near-blizzard conditions seen along parts of the Gulf Coast.  As the low moved eastward, the very cold arctic air plunged southward behind it.


By the morning of Monday, February 13th, the low pressure system was located off the mid-Atlantic coast, and the center of the arctic high had settled southward to the Texas and Louisiana border.  Strong northerly winds between these weather systems had sent the frigid air all the way southward down the Florida peninsula, with measureable snowfall occurring in the Florida peninsula as far south as the Tampa area.  Across Alabama, which was now covered by a blanket of fresh snow, temperatures had plunged to below zero all the way to near the Gulf Coast.  Some low temperatures (in degrees Farenheit) in Alabama that morning included:



Low Temperature


Low Temperature

Valley Head

-17 degrees


-13 degrees


-10 degrees


-10 degrees


-6 degrees


-5 degrees


-5 degrees


-1 degree


0 degrees





Even in the Florida Panhandle, temperatures dropped to near or just below zero in the interior sections, with DeFuniak Springs dropping to 0 degrees and Tallahassee to -2 degrees.