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It snowed in Miami? We woke up to the impossible on this day, and here’s what we did

Miami has shivered this winter.

Remember Christmastime cold, when temperatures dipped into the 30s and 40s and didn’t get warmer than the 50s? South Florida is facing a similar shot of cold this weekend.

But it won’t snow, forecasters say.

In January 1977, it did. The headlines blared, Snow in Miami!

Snow or not, are we ready to huddle around our smart TVs, wrapped in our FIU and UM hoodies and warming our frozen insides with churros and hot chocolate? Let’s look back through the Miami Herald archives and flip to Jan. 19, 1977: the day snow fell in the Magic City.

Miami weather forecaster Ray Biedinger looked at the screen of his trusty weather radar in the wee hours of Jan. 19, 1977, and dreaded what he had to do.

The bitter cold front barreling south across the state during his midnight shift at the old National Weather Service office, then in Coral Gables on South Dixie Highway, left him no choice but to issue one of Miami’s most unusual and historic forecasts:

“Cold with rain showers and the possibility of snow, ’’ Biedinger wrote. “If you notice, I didn’t put snow first in that forecast, ’’ Biedinger told the Herald in 2007.

But he got it right. Now, 45 years ago, snowflakes briefly dusted tropical palm trees, windshields, and people from Miami to Palm Beach — a freak and brief winter wonderland and the only South Florida snowfall on record in the 20th century.

Shivering South Floridians, young and old, looked to the sky in total amazement as tiny snowflakes landed on their faces. In those early-morning hours, snowflakes fell as far south as Homestead and daytime temperatures for the region dipped into the low 30s.

But by 9:30 a.m., South Florida’s big snow show was over, melted by the sun’s rays.

The headline on Miami’s afternoon newspaper, the Miami News, screamed in bold: Snow in Miami! The next day The Miami Herald’s read: The Day It Snowed in Miami.

The rare event remains a special memory for those who witnessed it.

Hurricanes come and go, but snow in Miami? That’s once in a lifetime.

Many South Floridians missed it – so there were skeptics. Veteran radio disc jockey Rick Shaw tried to set them straight from his radio booth.

He played Bing Crosby’s “White Christmas.” He said listeners who didn’t see or feel those fine granules were calling the station and asking why they were playing that song in the middle of January.

“Cause it’s snowing outside!” Shaw told them. “It was quite a day.”

Snow fell during an eventful week for South Florida – and the United States.

Newly-elected President Jimmy Carter’s inauguration was scheduled for the next day; and Dade County commissioners had passed the controversial ordinance banning discrimination against gays the day before, setting the stage for a bitter battle between singer Anita Bryant and gays.

The snow and the low temperatures put Florida’s citrus and vegetable industry in a death grip. Both were nearly wiped out, and about 150,000 migrant workers around the state lost their jobs – including 80,000 in Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties.

Then-Gov. Reubin Askew declared a state of emergency. Officially, snow in Miami is not on the weather record books.

“It was an immeasurable amount that fell, so it’s written down as ‘a trace’ of snow, ’’ said Biedinger. Only once before, in 1899, had something resembling snow fallen over South Florida. And not this far south, only down to Fort Pierce.

Miami’s snowfall during the Blizzard of 1977 was caused by a combination of two arctic cold fronts – one passed the region on Jan. 16 followed by a second, faster-moving one in the middle of the night the day it snowed.

The precipitation formed in the clouds did not have enough time to melt before it reached the ground. If it had happened in the middle of the day, there probably would not have been snow, the weather service said.

But because of those few minutes of snow, history was made.


Frank Piloto Jr., who said he was working the day shift as a cop with the Miami-Dade Police Department on Jan. 19, 1977 — the day of the only South Florida snowfall on record in the 20th century.

“I was at [Jackson Memorial Hospital] with the victim of a heart attack when I looked out the ER front doors and saw my partner, John Miller, struggling to walk across the parking lot toward the ER. John was from Indiana, I from Chicago. As we prepared to leave back on the road, we cleaned the windshield with our bare hands and threw the few flurries we could pick up at each other, our Miami version of a snow fight.”

It was by no means a blizzard — even calling it a dusting is an exaggeration. But in those early-morning hours, snowflakes fell as far south as Homestead and daytime temperatures for the region dipped into the low 30s. By 9:30 a.m., South Florida’s big snow show was over, melted by the sun.

There wasn’t enough snow to give birth to fat, round snowmen, or allow the dashing of sleds down a nearby hill. Weather record books give Miami credit for only a “trace” of snow that day. The word “magical” does not appear.

Except in the musings of those who were there.

“After 42 years in South Florida, I still talk about this day today,” Pat D’Angelo wrote at “I was a senior at Piper High School in Sunrise. I remember one girl crying and screaming. She couldn’t believe it!”

“It’s still probably the most unforgettable day I can remember in Miami,” posted a reader named George.

“I was 14 years old and an eighth-grader at North Miami Junior High. I recall my Mom driving me to school . . . listening to radio reports of snow falling in West Palm Beach and hoping, PRAYING it would make it to Miami.

“Well, sometime around the end of the first class the news spread like wildfire. It WAS snowing! The school emptied in a flash and we all stood outside amazed at the sight . . . for all the supposedly ‘gorgeous’ weather in Miami, it’s the day that it snowed that will ALWAYS retain a special place in my heart.”


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Erdogan unveils Turkey’s first astronaut on election trail

Turkey’s first astronaut will travel to the International Space Station by the end of the year, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Saturday after an illness forced him to cancel several days of appearances.

Air force pilot Alper Gezeravci, 43, was selected to be the first Turkish citizen in space. His backup is Tuva Cihangir Atasever, 30, an aviation systems engineer at Turkish defense contractor Roketsan.

Erdogan made the announcement at the Teknofest aviation and space fair in Istanbul, the president’s first public appearance since falling ill during a TV interview on Tuesday. He appeared alongside Azerbaijan’s president, Ilham Aliyev, and Libya’s interim prime minister, Abdul Hamid Dbeibeh.

“Our friend, who will go on Turkey’s first manned space mission, will stay on the International Space Station for 14 days,” Erdogan said. “Our astronaut will perform 13 different experiments prepared by our country’s esteemed universities and research institutions during this mission.”

Erdogan described Gezeravci as a “heroic Turkish pilot who has achieved significant success in our Air Force Command.”

The Turkish Space Agency website describes Gezeravci as a 21-year air force veteran and F-16 pilot who attended the U.S. Air Force Institute of Technology.

Wearing a red flight jacket, Erdogan appeared in robust health as he addressed crowds at the festival. Turkey’s presidential and parliamentary elections are scheduled for May 14, and opinion polls show Erdogan in potentially his toughest race since he came to power two decades ago.

Turkey is dealing with a prolonged economic downturn, and the government received criticism after a February earthquake killed more than 50,000 in the country. Experts blamed the high death toll in part on shoddy construction and law enforcement of building codes.

While campaigning for reelection, Erdogan has unveiled a number of prestigious projects, such as Turkey’s first nuclear power plant and the delivery of natural gas from Black Sea reserves.


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Israelis rally for 17th week against judicial overhaul plans

Tens of thousands of Israelis protested judicial overhaul proposals Saturday in the 17th weekly rally against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s governing coalition.

The demonstrations have been ongoing since the beginning of the year, and organizers plan to continue, despite Netanyahu delaying the changes last month. The leaders of the mass protests want the proposals scrapped altogether.

“We are just getting started,” read a banner that demonstrators held at the main protest in Tel Aviv, Israel’s economic hub. Smaller demonstrations were reported in several parts of the country.

Spanish Prime Minister and Socialist leader Pedro Sanchez voiced support to the Israeli antigovernment protesters in a video message aired on a large screen in Tel Aviv.

We as Socialist International have always fought for freedom, equality, justice, and democracy. Yet, as many of you know, these are values that we cannot take for granted,” Sanchez said.

Protesters argue the proposed changes threaten Israel’s democratic values, hurting a system of checks and balances and concentrating authority in the hands of Netanyahu and his extremist allies.

They also say that the prime minister has a conflict of interest in trying to reshape the nation’s legal system at a time when he is on trial.

Such changes would result in weakening the Supreme Court, giving parliament, which is controlled by Netanyahu’s allies, authority to overturn its rulings and limiting its ability to review laws.

The protest gained support from the military’s elite reserve force, businesses, and large sectors of the Israeli community. But on Thursday, tens of thousands of right-wing Israelis who support the legal



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‘Total nightmare:’ As Florida insurance companies go insolvent, homeowners pay the price

Seminole county couple has three-year open claim because of insolvent insurer.

What happens when your property insurer goes out of business?

It is happening quite a bit in Florida and is leading to all policyholders paying more.

The Florida Insurance Guaranty is adding a 1% assessment to policyholders starting in October to cover claims for insolvent companies.

A Seminole County couple has lived without a fully functioning kitchen for three years because their insurer went out of business.

Sandra Braga Alfonso said what started as a leak under her sink has turned into a three-year nightmare.

She said there was already a fight with her insurer to pay out the claim, but then the company went under and it got worse.

Alfonso has a fridge and an oven but is missing lower cabinets, a stove, her normal sink, and a dishwasher.

“It has been a total nightmare,” Alfonso said.

It started in December of 2019 with a leak under her sink, she said.

She eventually discovered water in all her lower cabinets and in the sheetrock behind the cabinets, she said.

“The insurance company gave us approval to rip everything out that was damaged and now they don’t want to pay to put it back in,” Alfonso said.

The insurance company cut a check for $4,800, she said.

Of that $4,300 went to water mitigation to prevent mold. That left about $500, not nearly enough to replace her kitchen, she said.

“We’ve tried to settle, go to mediation, everything,” she said.

Finally, Alfonso and her husband filed a lawsuit against her insurer, but after two years of hearings and motions and waiting for a court date, her insurer went out of business.

She was with Capitol Insurance, but according to the Florida Department of Financial Services, Capitol was merged into Southern Fidelity, which is now one of 14 companies in liquidation.

“I’m over it. I just want my kitchen. I just want to be able to live again. I love to cook, and I can’t,” Alfonso said.

In the last year, Florida lawmakers have had three special legislative sessions to deal with Florida’s property insurance crises.

News 6 asked Alfonso if she thinks anything is being done in Tallahassee to help consumers with their insurance issues.

“No, it’s all for the insurance company,” she said.

One of the biggest moves made in Tallahassee over the last year is the legislature doing away with what is referred to as “one-way attorney’s fees.”

That means if you sued your insurer over a claim and won, the insurance company had to pay your attorney’s fees. Without it, Alfonso said she would never have been able to sue her insurer even though in her case, it didn’t do any good.

No. My husband’s retired. He’s on disability and he’s retired we’re on a fixed income,” Alfonso said.

Alfonso has now turned to the Florida Insurance Guaranty Association, which handles the claims of insolvent property and casualty insurance companies.

They are still negotiating the amount it will take to fix her kitchen — more than three years later.

“I owned my first home when I was 20-something years old,” Alfonso said. “I’ve been paying my insurance premiums since I’m like 25, never filed a claim and look where I am now,” Alfonso said.


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