White Christmas Forecast

As we get close to Christmas, the question I hear most is “will there be snow for Christmas this year?”. The easy answer to this question is “no”. I can forecast that we will not have a White Christmas in Florence every year, I will be correct 98.5% of the time… a pretty accurate score for a meteorologist. This year we have had a warm Fall, and so far in December just one good cold snap (another starts tomorrow). Although the weather does look cool next week leading up to Christmas, it does not look cold enough for snow.

A normal Christmas Day in Florence, SC will have a high temperature of 56, and a low of 36. The coldest Christmas reading was in 1983 and 1989 when the temperature dipped to 9 degrees. In 1983, the afternoon high only warmed to 26. Our warmest Christmas was in 1955 with an afternoon high of 81 degrees. In 1987, Santa shed his heavy winter jacket, since the morning low temperature was a balmy 63 degrees. Chances for rain on an average Christmas Day are fairly high, especially compared to Thanksgiving. The wettest Christmas was in 2006 when we saw 2.2 inches of rain. We also saw a soaker of a Christmas in 1981, when 1.38” of rain fell.

Our history of snow in Florence, SC on Christmas Day is very scant. Since 1948, when we started keeping track of snowfall in Florence, there has never been accumulating snow on Christmas Day. Our one and only White Christmas was in 1989 when over 4 inches of snow fell on Christmas Eve, and was still on the ground on Christmas Day. This is the same storm that brought over a foot of snow to the beach. The definition of a white Christmas is one inch of snow on the ground at anytime on Christmas Day. So flurries that do not stick do not count as a White Christmas, neither do a few patches of snow here and there leftover from a previous storm.

While we have only had one White Christmas, we have had a couple close calls. In 1958, we had almost 5 inches of snow on December 11. In 1973, we saw an inch and a half on the 17th. In 1993, we had an inch of snow two days before Christmas, but it quickly melted, and there was no trace of it left on Christmas. In 2004, we saw a mix of freezing rain, sleet and snow that produced a light coating across the Pee Dee. This started late at night on Christmas, and continued into the morning of the 26th, but it did not accumulate enough on Christmas day to count as a White Christmas. In 2010, we had 3 inches of snow the day after Christmas… close, but no cigar!

Any map of the United States that shows the average chance for a White Christmas has the eastern Carolinas in the “less than 5%” shading. With our limited snowfall history, we can be more accurate than that. Snowfall records in Florence go back to 1948. That is 68 years of data. In that time, we have had one white Christmas, so if you do the math we have a 1.47% chance for a White Christmas on any given year.

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