15 Places You Won’t Believe Have Seen Snow

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iStock

Believe it or not, some of the world’s hottest regions have experienced winter blizzards, spring flurries, and even summer snowfalls. Here are 15 sunny places that are, surprisingly, no stranger to the white stuff.

1. LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA 

WHEN: January 1949

HOW MUCH: More than half an inch of snow covered L.A.’s downtown weather station, and the San Fernando Valley received nearly a foot.

WHY IT WAS A BIG DEAL: L.A. has experienced a handful of snowfalls over the decades, but this one lasted for nearly three days. Today, it’s remembered as the greatest recorded winter storm in the city’s history—not exactly a hard distinction to earn, considering it’s only snowed six times in L.A. since 1949, and not once in the past 54 years.

WHAT THE LOCALS THOUGHT: Even though they had to temporarily trade in their shorts and T-shirts for parkas, Californians managed to find humor in the situation. People built sombrero-wearing snowmen, and one hardware store erected a sign that read, “Snow Plows for Rent—Hurry!” The city of Reno, Nevada, even mailed L.A. a snow shovel.

“’The Big Snow of 49,’ we will remark to our wide-eyed grandchildren, “ one local newspaper rhapsodized. “Now that was a snow that really was a snow.” 

2. MUHAFAZAT AL WAFRAH, KUWAIT

WHEN: January 28, 2016

HOW MUCH: A light dusting of snow (if it was, in fact, snow) reportedly fell near a border post in Muhafazat al Wafrah, Kuwait.

WHY IT WAS A BIG DEAL: Temperatures in Kuwait can dip as low as 36°F during the colder months, but to our knowledge, the tiny Gulf country has never experienced a white winter.

WHAT THE LOCALS THOUGHT: "I asked my grandfather, he said there has never been snow before," one local man commented to a newspaper. "Everyone is surprised." However, the jury’s still out on whether Kuwait actually experienced its first official snowfall. People shared images and videos of the phenomenon on social media, but none were independently verified. Meanwhile, one meteorologist told an official state news wire service that the “snow” was really hail that had fallen onto wet grounds, forming a layer of ice.

3. MAUNA KEA, HAWAII

WHEN: June 14, 2016

HOW MUCH: A light dusting

WHY IT WAS A BIG DEAL: Mauna Kea is a dormant volcano on Hawaii’s Big Island that stands nearly 14,000 feet above sea level, making it the highest peak in the Pacific Ocean. Thanks to its elevation, Mauna Kea has a sub-arctic climate zone. It’s no stranger to snow, blizzards, and ice during the winter, but it’s more unusual to see the volcano covered in frozen precipitation during warmer months. That being said, Mauna Kea has experienced summer snow before—once in June 2011, and other incidents that have occurred in July, August, and late May.

WHAT THE LOCALS THOUGHT: Native Hawaiians (and weather experts) know that snow falls on the top of the summits of Hawaii’s three tallest volcanoes—Mauna Kea, Mauna Loa and Haleakala—several times a year. But others were a little confused, so a weather service explained the science behind the phenomenon in a social media post on June 15, 2016: “Snow on Mauna Kea in June? How common is that?” they wrote.  “Although not common during the summer months, snow can fall and has fallen during the summer. Just last year, the summit saw snow on July 17th. The combination of cooler than normal upper air temperatures and thunderstorms bringing in moisture was what made snow possible yesterday.”

4. SOUTHERN FLORIDA

WHEN: The early morning of January 9, 1977

HOW MUCH: Miami’s beaches received trace amounts of white stuff, and even Homestead, Florida—a suburb that’s only 25 degrees, 28 minutes north of the equator—saw a few flurries. However, the phenomenon was short-lived, and the skies were clear by 9:30 a.m. The precipitation ended up being so slight that the freak occurrence wasn’t even officially recorded as a snow event.

WHY IT WAS A BIG DEAL: The event marked the first time that steamy South Florida had ever seen snow. There hasn’t been a confirmed instance since—although one meteorologist says she received reports of flurries in Miami-Dade and Broward counties in January 2010. (These sightings weren’t officially confirmed by weather services.)

WHAT THE LOCALS THOUGHT: Teachers allowed students to leave class and run in the snow, and a sanitation company in Pompano Beach playfully put "Free Snow Removal" signs on its garbage trucks. “Born and raised in Florida, I had never seen snow, and I will never forget that day as long as I live," one woman later reminisced to a local newspaper on the event’s 35th anniversary last year.

5. PHOENIX, ARIZONA

WHEN: Two record-breaking instances: January 20, 1933, and January 21-22, 1937

HOW MUCH: 1 inch

WHY IT WAS A BIG DEAL: Believe it or not, Arizona isn’t dry as a desert year-round. Come winter, heavy snowfalls often blanket the state’s mountainous north central regions. But snow is almost unheard of in Phoenix—which is why it was so monumental when the metro area received an inch of the white stuff on two separate occasions in the 1930s. Today, these incidents remain in the books as the greatest amounts of snow ever recorded in the region. (Snow fell again in Phoenix in 1998, but only .22 inches of precipitation—and a trace amount of snow—was measured.)

 WHAT THE LOCALS THOUGHT: Local newspapers described the 1937 snowfall in dramatic terms: “Winter subjected Arizona to an unrelenting barrage of bitter cold yesterday, sending snow flurries [to] Phoenix, Tucson, and Yuma,” one news outlet wrote—even though a subsequent paragraph revealed that only a few flakes fell during the late afternoon and evening, and melted before hitting the ground.

6. GUADELOUPE

WHEN: March 31, 2016

HOW MUCH: : “A very fine snowfall” reportedly covered the hills above the municipality of St. Claude, northeast of the capital city of Basse-Terre, after the region experienced a cold front and accompanying precipitation. 

WHY IT WAS A BIG DEAL: Caribbean news outlets claimed it wasn’t an April Fool’s Day Joke: For the first time in recorded history, snow had actually fallen on the tropical French island of Guadeloupe. (We haven’t been able to find accounts by non-locals, so the jury’s still out on whether the alleged phenomenon was actually a prank.)

WHAT THE LOCALS THOUGHT: “This has never before been seen in Guadeloupe,” a French meteorologist said on TV. “This is an exceptional event that we will never forget.”

7. SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA

WHEN: June 28, 1836

HOW MUCH: Up to one inch 

WHY IT WAS A BIG DEAL: Overnight rain turned into morning snow, and by 7 a.m. people reported measuring as much as one inch piling on top of rooftops and awnings (although it reportedly melted in an hour). Over the following decades, Sydney reportedly experienced several other snowfalls, but none were as dramatic—or as strange—as the 1836 incident.

WHAT THE LOCALS THOUGHT: Sydney officially become Australia’s first city in 1842. Before that, it was a colony of British settlers and former convicts. According to a local newspaper, the surprised European transplants “were reported to have made light of the unusual occurrence,” a reporter wrote. “Some of the ‘Old hands’ express a hope that their old acquaintances, Messrs. Frost and Snow do not intend emigrating to New South Wales.”

8. ROME, ITALY

WHEN: February 4, 2012

HOW MUCH: Parts of the city were covered in nearly a foot of snow, and even more fell the following day.

WHY IT WAS A BIG DEAL: Can’t imagine white weather in the Mediterranean? Neither can its inhabitants. This was Rome’s heaviest snowfall since the mid-1980s—and the city was completely unprepared for the chaos it caused. Schools shut down, some commuters took as long as eight hours to arrive home from work, and some 33,000 homes were left without power the next day. Later that week, officials were forced to shut down the Colosseum after they discovered that frozen chunks of its walls were falling off, and the Roman Forum and Palatine Hill were closed to tourists.

WHAT THE LOCALS THOUGHT: One journalist told a Canadian news outlet that Rome’s mayor announced nobody should drive in the snow without snow chains, “which no one has in this city because it never snows,” she said. They did, however, have shovels: Civil protection authorities handed out around 2000 shovels in Rome’s central public squares, and asked locals to lend a hand and help dig the city out.

9. THE SAHARA DESERT

WHEN: February 18, 1979

HOW MUCH: It’s hard to pinpoint an official recorded depth, but the snowstorm reportedly lasted a half-hour and melted within a few hours.

WHY IT WAS A BIG DEAL: The Saharan mountain ranges (which include Chad’s Tibesti Mountains and Algeria’s Ahaggar Mountains) experience snow around every seven years—but this time around, it fell in the city of Ghardaïa, Algeria. The phenomenon marked the first time that snow was ever recorded in the desert’s low altitude areas.

WHAT THE LOCALS THOUGHT: The snowstorm reportedly caused traffic delays, but we still don’t know if locals complained or used the weather as an excuse to skip work.

10. BUENOS AIRES, ARGENTINA

WHEN: July 9, 2007

HOW MUCH: A front of Antarctic air drifted north, causing normally warm temperatures to dip and precipitation to fall. Newspapers didn’t name an official snow depth, but the soft, wet layer of white stuff covered Buenos Aires and portions of the western highlands.

WHY IT WAS A BIG DEAL: According to the national weather service, Buenos Aires hadn’t experienced a major snowstorm since June 22, 1918. (The occasion may have also felt particularly festive because it occurred on Argentina’s independence day holiday.)

WHAT THE LOCALS THOUGHT: Children pelted each other with snowballs, motorists drove with tiny snowmen on their car hoods, and crowds gathered at the city’s famous Obelisk monument to enjoy the historic weather. "Despite all my years, this is the first time I've ever seen in snow in Buenos Aires," an 82-year-old woman told a newspaper. 

11. BAGHDAD, IRAQ

WHEN: January 11, 2008

HOW MUCH: Flurries (they melted quickly)

WHY IT WAS A BIG DEAL: Snow is a regular occurrence in northern Iraq’s mountain regions. In Baghdad? Not so much. Locals reportedly couldn’t agree on when (and even whether) Baghdad had received snow before. Some people said it had never happened whereas others argued snow struck the region once, a little over 40 years prior. Others only remembered occasional rain or hailstorms.

WHAT THE LOCALS THOUGHT: Some people said they’d only seen snow in movies, so they were eager to capture the moment. “I rushed quickly to the balcony to see a very beautiful scene,” said one 19-year-old college student. “I tried to film it with my cell phone camera. This scene has really brought me joy. I called my other friends and the morning turned out to be a very happy one in my life.”

12. SOUTH TEXAS

WHEN: December 24-25, 2004

HOW MUCH: 12.5 inches in Victoria, Texas; 4.4 inches in Corpus Christi, Texas; and 1-3 inches across parts of the Houston metro area.

WHY IT WAS A BIG DEAL: Forget about white Christmases—South Texas rarely ever gets snow, much less a measurable amount. This was the most snow that the region had seen since the late 1800s, so naturally, it set several historic records: Corpus Christi experienced its heaviest-ever recorded snowstorm, Victoria weathered its greatest 24-hour snowstorm, and the city of Brownsville received its first measurable amount of snow since February 1895.

WHAT THE LOCALS THOUGHT: Nobody believed forecasts calling for snow—so when the storm finally hit, locals had nothing to wear. One man remembers his children playing in the snow, plastic bags taped around their ankles to stay dry. Other people recall snowball fights and snowmen, and refer to the phenomenon as a Christmas miracle.

13. NEW ORLEANS, LOUISIANA

WHEN: February 14-15, 1895

HOW MUCH: More than 8 feet

WHY IT WAS A BIG DEAL: The Big Easy is famous for its bayous and swamps, but it’s also experienced 17 measurable snowfalls since 1852 (including a 1-inch dusting in December 2008).  The city’s greatest snowstorm on record is the 1895 blizzard, which reportedly also caused flurries to fall even further south, in Tampico, Mexico.

WHAT THE LOCALS THOUGHT: Here’s one local newspaper’s account of the wintry weather phenomenon: “For more than 12 hours past snow has fallen here steadily and tonight [evening of February 14] the Crescent City is wrapped in a mantle of white such as she never wore before … Street car service was entirely suspended this afternoon, and the hackmen reaped a harvest, charging unheard of prices for their vehicles.”

14. DEATH VALLEY, CALIFORNIA

WHEN: Weather stations have only officially recorded two instances of snow in Death Valley. The first occurred on January 9 and 11, 1949; the second, on January 4 and 5, 1974. (This isn’t counting four inches of snow that was spotted at an unofficial weather station at Cow Creek, the national park’s employee housing area, on January 12, 1949.) 

HOW MUCH: A trace amount

WHY IT WAS A BIG DEAL: Death Valley is Earth’s hottest place, and North America’s driest. Its average rainfall is less than two inches per year, and temperatures often soar above 120°F (although it does get chillier during the winter months).

15. THE ATACAMA DESERT, CHILE

WHEN: The snowfall began on July 3, 2011, and lasted for several days.

HOW MUCH: Thanks to a rare Antarctic cold front, parts of the arid region received nearly 32 inches of snow.

WHY IT WAS A BIG DEAL: The Atacama Desert is the driest place on Earth, thanks in part to the Andes Mountains and Chilean Coast Range, which naturally block moisture from the region. Parts of the 600-mile-long plateau have never even experienced a recorded rainfall.

WHAT THE LOCALS THOUGHT: Locals of nearby San Pedro de Atacama said the snowstorm was the largest the region had received in three decades. Roads to the city were temporarily blocked, and thousands of people were left without electricity, cell phone service, radio, and food.

Take Advantage of Amazon's Early Black Friday Deals on Tech, Kitchen Appliances, and More

Amazon
Amazon

This article contains affiliate links to products selected by our editors. Mental Floss may receive a commission for purchases made through these links.

Even though Black Friday is still a few days away, Amazon is offering early deals on kitchen appliances, tech, video games, and plenty more. We will keep updating this page as sales come in, but for now, here are the best Amazon Black Friday sales to check out.

Kitchen

Instant Pot/Amazon

- Instant Pot Duo Plus 9-in-115 Quart Electric Pressure Cooker; $90 (save $40) 

- Le Creuset Enameled Cast Iron Signature Sauteuse 3.5 Quarts; $180 (save $120)

- KitchenAid KSMSFTA Sifter with Scale Attachment; $95 (save $75) 

- Keurig K-Mini Coffee Maker; $60 (save $20)

- Cuisinart Bread Maker; $88 (save $97)

- Anova Culinary Sous Vide Precision Cooker; $139 (save $60)

- Aicook Juicer Machine; $35 (save $15)

- JoyJolt Double Wall Insulated Espresso Mugs - Set of Two; $14 (save $10) 

- Longzon Silicone Stretch Lids - Set of 14; $13 (save $14)

HadinEEon Milk Frother; $37 (save $33)

Home Appliances

Roomba/Amazon

- iRobot Roomba 675 Robot Vacuum with Wi-Fi Connectivity; $179 (save $101)

- Fairywill Electric Toothbrush with Four Brush Heads; $19 (save $9)

- ASAKUKI 500ml Premium Essential Oil Diffuser; $22 (save $4)

- Facebook Portal Smart Video Calling 10 inch Touch Screen Display with Alexa; $129 (save $50)

- Bissell air320 Smart Air Purifier with HEPA and Carbon Filters; $280 (save $50)

Oscillating Quiet Cooling Fan Tower; $59 (save $31) 

TaoTronics PTC 1500W Fast Quiet Heating Ceramic Tower; $55 (save $10)

Vitamix 068051 FoodCycler 2 Liter Capacity; $300 (save $100)

AmazonBasics 8-Sheet Home Office Shredder; $33 (save $7)

Ring Video Doorbell; $70 (save $30) 

Video games

Nintendo

- Legend of Zelda Link's Awakening for Nintendo Switch; $40 (save $20)

- Marvel's Spider-Man: Game of The Year Edition for PlayStation 4; $20 (save $20)

- Marvel's Avengers; $27 (save $33)

- Minecraft Dungeons Hero Edition for Nintendo Switch; $20 (save $10)

- The Last of Us Part II for PlayStation 4; $30 (save $30)

- LEGO Harry Potter: Collection; $15 (save $15)

- Ghost of Tsushima; $40 (save $20)

BioShock: The Collection; $20 (save $30)

The Sims 4; $20 (save $20)

God of War for PlayStation 4; $10 (save $10)

Days Gone for PlayStation 4; $20 (save $6)

Luigi's Mansion 3 for Nintendo Switch; $40 (save $20)

Computers and tablets

Microsoft/Amazon

- Apple MacBook Air 13 inches with 256 GB; $899 (save $100)

- New Apple MacBook Pro 16 inches with 512 GB; $2149 (save $250) 

- Samsung Chromebook 4 Chrome OS 11.6 inches with 32 GB; $210 (save $20) 

- Microsoft Surface Laptop 3 with 13.5 inch Touch-Screen; $1200 (save $400)

- Lenovo ThinkPad T490 Laptop; $889 (save $111)

- Amazon Fire HD 10 Tablet (64GB); $120 (save $70)

- Amazon Fire HD 10 Kids Edition Tablet (32 GB); $130 (save $70)

- Samsung Galaxy Tab A 8 inches with 32 GB; $100 (save $50)

Apple iPad Mini (64 GB); $379 (save $20)

- Apple iMac 27 inches with 256 GB; $1649 (save $150)

- Vankyo MatrixPad S2 Tablet; $120 (save $10)

Tech, gadgets, and TVs

Apple/Amazon

- Apple Watch Series 3 with GPS; $179 (save $20) 

- SAMSUNG 75-inch Class Crystal 4K Smart TV; $998 (save $200)

- Apple AirPods Pro; $199 (save $50)

- Nixplay 2K Smart Digital Picture Frame 9.7 Inch Silver; $238 (save $92)

- All-New Amazon Echo Dot with Clock and Alexa (4th Gen); $39 (save $21)

- MACTREM LED Ring Light 6" with Tripod Stand; $16 (save $3)

- Anker Soundcore Upgraded Bluetooth Speaker; $22 (save $8)

- Amazon Fire TV Stick with Alexa Voice Remote; $28 (save $12)

Canon EOS M50 Mirrorless Camera with EF-M 15-45mm Lens; $549 (save $100)

DR. J Professional HI-04 Mini Projector; $93 (save $37)

Sign Up Today: Get exclusive deals, product news, reviews, and more with the Mental Floss Smart Shopping newsletter!

9 Things Invented By Accident

These sugary summer treats were an accidental invention.
These sugary summer treats were an accidental invention.
Daniel Öberg, Unsplash

Not every great invention was created according to plan. Some, in fact, were the result of a happy accident. In November 2020, the pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca announced that the COVID-19 vaccine it had developed in partnership with Oxford University was 90 percent effective when administered in a dosing regimen they had discovered thanks to some “serendipity.” This wasn't the only unintentional discovery in history, of course. From penicillin to artificial sweeteners, all nine of the everyday items below were invented entirely by accident.

1. Penicillin

On September 28, 1928, Scottish scientist Alexander Fleming discovered that a petri dish of staphylococcus bacteria that had been inadvertently left out on the windowsill of his London laboratory had become contaminated by a greenish-colored mold—and encircling the mold was a halo of inhibited bacterial growth. After taking a sample and developing a culture, Fleming discovered that the mold was a member of the Penicillium genus, and the rest, as they say, is history.

2. Corn Flakes

The two Kellogg brothers—Dr. John Harvey Kellogg and his younger brother (and former broom salesman) Will Keith Kellogg—worked at Battle Creek Sanitarium in Michigan, where John was physician-in-chief. Both were strict Seventh-day Adventists, who used their work at the sanitarium to promote the austere dietary and moralist principles of their religion (including strict vegetarianism and a lifelong restraint from excessive sex and alcohol) and to carry out research into nutrition, and the impact of diet on their patients. It was during one of these experiments in 1894 that, while in the process of making dough from boiled wheat, one of the Kelloggs left the mash to dry for too long and when it came time to be rolled out, it splintered into dozens of individual flakes. Curious as to what these flakes tasted like, he baked them in the oven—and in the process, produced a cereal called Granose. Some later tinkering switched out the wheat for corn, and gave us corn flakes.

3. Teflon

Polytetrafluoroethylene—better known as PTFE, or Teflon—was invented by accident at a DuPont laboratory in New Jersey in 1938. Roy Plunkett, an Ohio-born chemist, was attempting to make a new CFC refrigerant when he noticed that a canister of tetrafluoroethylene, despite appearing to be empty, weighed as much as if it were full. Cutting the canister open with a saw, Plunkett found that the gas had reacted with the iron in the canister’s shell and had coated its insides with polymerized polytetrafluoroethylene—a waxy, water-repellent, non-stick substance. Du Pont soon saw the potential of Plunkett’s discovery and began mass producing PTFE, but it wasn’t until 1954, when the wife of French engineer Marc Grégoire asked her husband to use the same substance to coat her cookware to stop food sticking to her pans, that the true usefulness of Plunkett’s discovery was finally realized.

4. Slinky

In 1943, naval engineer Richard T. James was working at a shipyard in Philadelphia when he accidentally knocked a spring (that he had been trying to modify into a stabilizer for sensitive maritime equipment) from a high shelf. To his surprise, the spring neatly uncoiled itself and stepped its way down from the shelf and onto a pile of books, and from there onto a tabletop, and then onto the floor. After two years of development, the first batch of 400 “Slinky” toys sold out in just 90 minutes when they were demonstrated in the toy department of a local Gimbels store in 1945.

5. Silly Putty

At the height of World War II, rubber was rationed across the United States after Japan invaded a number of rubber-producing countries across southeast Asia and hampered production. The race was on to find a suitable replacement—a synthetic rubber that could be produced inside the U.S. without the need of overseas imports, which eventually led to the entirely unexpected invention of Silly Putty. There are at least two rival claims to the invention of Silly Putty (chiefly from chemist Earl L. Warrick and Scottish-born engineer James Wright), both of whom found that mixing boric acid with silicone oil produced a stretchy, bouncy rubber-like substance that also had the unusual ability of leaching newspaper print from a page (an ability that changing technology has now eliminated).

6. Post-It Notes

Pexels, Pixabay

In 1968, a 3M chemist named Dr. Spencer Silver was attempting to create a super-strong adhesive when instead he accidentally invented a super-weak adhesive, which could be used to only temporarily stick things together. The seemingly limited application of Silver’s product meant that it sat unused at 3M (then technically known as Minnesota Mining & Manufacturing) for another five years, until, in 1973, a colleague named Art Fry attended one of Silver’s seminars and struck upon the idea that his impermanent glue could be used to stick bookmarks into the pages of his hymnbook. It took another few years for 3M to be convinced both of Fry and Silver’s idea and of the salability of their product, but eventually they came up with a unique design that worked perfectly: a thin film of Spencer’s adhesive was applied along just one edge of a piece of paper. After a failed test-market push in 1977 as Press ’N Peel, the product went national as the Post-It note in 1980.

7. Saccharin

In 1878 or '79 (sources differ), Constantin Fahlberg, a chemist studying the properties of oxidized coal tar at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland, discoveredwhile eating his meal one evening that food he picked up with this fingers tasted sweeter than normal. He traced the sweetening effect back to the chemical he had been working with that day (Ortho-sulfobenzoic Acid Imide, no less) and, noting its potential salability, quickly set up a business mass producing his sweetener under the name Saccharin. Although quickly popular (and equally quickly controversial), it would take the sugar shortages of two World Wars to make the discovery truly universal.

8. Popsicles

The first popsicle was reportedly invented by 11-year-old Frank Epperson in 1905, when he accidentally left a container of powdered soda and water, with its mixing stick still inside, on his porch overnight. One unexpectedly cold night later, and the popsicle—which Epperson originally marketed 20 years later as an Epsicle—was born.

9. Safety glass

Safety glass—or rather, laminated glass—was accidentally discovered by the French chemist Édouard Bénédictus when he knocked a glass beaker from a high shelf in his laboratory and found, to his surprise, that it shattered but did not break. His assistant informed him that the beaker had contained cellulose nitrate, a type of clear natural plastic, that had left a film on the inside of the glass. He filed a patent for his discovery in 1909, and it has been in production (albeit in various different forms) ever since.