Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Houston and Galveston Snowed In

Yup, you read that right. On Valentines Day 1895, Houston, Galveston and much of the Gulf Coast were blanketed with heavy snow. Unusual to say the least.

So, how did this extraordinary event come to pass? To begin with, the winter of 1894-95 was dang cold. February of that year was the coldest February and the second coldest month ever recorded in Houston. And Galveston Island is not far (50 some miles) from the large metropolis.

Temperatures in February 1895 actually fluctuated drastically. Temps reached around 60° in Houston on February 6th, followed by a cold front on February 7th, when temperatures only rose into the low 20s. After a low of 10° on February 8th, temps warmed back up into the 40s through the 11th. Then another cold front swept down from the north on Tuesday the 12th and Wednesday the 13th. On Thursday morning the Houston Post reported:

"The unusual sight of falling snow was witnessed last night in this city. The wind was blowing steadily from the north and a cold, misty rain which began to fall between 7 and 8 o'clock, soon changed to sleet and then to snow. At midnight, the streets were covered with an exceedingly thin mantle of snow, but the indications were that the fall of snow would probably be changed to rain."
The newspaper's prediction proved wrong, as witnessed in this photo.
University of Houston Digital Archives/NWS Houston
Without getting too technical, what caused the snow was likely the cold front from up north colliding with precipitation from California that, according to weather maps, blew across the southwest and Texas. Also, it is thought that a storm on the Gulf swept the coast from Texas to Florida, adding more moisture and wind to the mix.

In Galveston, snow began to fall around 1 o'clock in the afternoon on the 14th, Valentines Day, and continued through the day. It totaled between 12 and 16 inches, bringing streetcars to a halt and causing many businesses to close. People waited in vain for trains that could not get through to them. At the station, Officer Perrett saved a half frozen dog he found in a snow drift, warming it by the waiting room stove. (There were three railroad bridges connecting Galveston to the mainland by this time. Two were destroyed by the terrible 1900 hurricane.) 

Famous Galveston Strand snow-covered; Rosenberg Library Archives

Carriage driving through snow; Rosenberg Library Archives

Shoe stores sold out of "gum boots" (rubber boots) and people, both young and old cavorted in the snow, holding snowball fights all over the city. Some clever citizen rigged runners to their carriages and used them as sleighs. Inevitably, others ended up falling on their backsides in the snow.

The Valentines Day snow storm figures prominently in my current work in progress. It's a time travel romance set in Galveston.

Lyn Horner is a multi-published, award-winning author of western historical romance and paranormal romantic suspense novels, all spiced with sensual romance. She is a former fashion illustrator and art instructor who resides in Fort Worth, Texas – “Where the West Begins” - with her husband and two very spoiled cats. As well as crafting passionate love stories, Lyn enjoys reading, gardening, genealogy, visiting with family and friends, and cuddling her furry, four-legged babies.

Amazon Author Page: (universal link)  
Website:  Lyn Horner’s Corner 


  1. Lyn, what a surprise your post is! I love Texas history but this event had escaped my notice. I definitely glad to learn about it, though. I am familiar with the terrible hurricane of 1900 that you mentioned. Thank you so much for sharing your research!

  2. Thanks, Caroline. When I learned about the Great Valentines Day Snow, I knew that had to be part of my book. Even more astonishing, four years later in 1899, came the Great Arctic Outbreak, a massive cold front that affected most of the United States, especially east of the Rocky Mountains. It destroyed much of the Florida fruit crop, and brought the third coldest average temps to Texas. Galveston dropped to an all-time low of 8° F. That's cold!


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