1899: When the Mississippi River Entirely Froze

Four consecutive days during the winter of 1899 brought extreme harsh conditions to North America. Known as “The Great Cold Wave”, many record-setting low temperatures which were set still hold to this day in many cities.

On February 14, Tallahassee, Florida saw temperatures as cold as -2°F (-18.9° C). This is still the coldest temperature ever recorded in Florida. Other locations that saw rare low temperatures include Dallas, Texas at -10°F (-23.3° C), Kansas City, Missouri at -22°F (-30° C), and Scottsbluff, Nebraska at -45°F (-42.8° C). All records which still stand.

This was the year when the Mississippi River froze its entire length down to the Gulf of Mexico. In fact, some ice even flowed into the Gulf. In places like Cairo, Illinois the thickness of the ice was 13 inches. Ice two inches thick reached New Orleans and ice an inch thick was observed at the mouth of the river.

Map of Mississippi River

During the approximate four day stretch, many places were lucky if the high temperature reach zero degrees. The Blizzard of 1899 was a benchmark storm for the South. Florida still measures their snowfall totals for a day or storm against the 1899 storm, sometimes referred to as the “greatest cold snap in American history.”

Editor’s Note: I mentioned Cairo, Illinois in this article. When doing research to find the city’s location, I came across this article. Take a read if you have time, it’s quite interesting.