As the capital of Georgia, Atlanta is one of the US cities easily associated with warmer weather and a low likelihood of snow. However, this cultural and economic center of the state sits at the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains and has lots of rolling hills, so it’s not exactly outside of the risk of snow. Does it snow in Atlanta?
Yes, it does snow in Atlanta, despite the city’s warmer climate and predisposition for rain and ice over snow. An Atlanta snowstorm can cause serious disruptions, even with just a few inches lying on the ground, because the locals lack familiarity with this type of weather.
Read on to find out all you need to know about winter in Atlanta.
The Climate in Atlanta, GA
Atlanta is considered to be in an area with a humid subtropical climate, which means it would have four seasons and generous precipitation (rain or snow) throughout the year. As a result, Atlanta’s summers are hot and humid, but the city is at high enough elevation (from 738 ft to 1050 ft) that they don’t become stifling.
How Often Does It Snow in Atlanta?
Winters are cool and variable, and the elevation does allow for snowfall, even if this would not come in huge quantities. With January average temperatures of 44.8 F (7.1 C), you would not expect snow to fall often, and lows at or below freezing can be expected, on average, 36 nights every year. Given that both the upper atmospheric temperature and lower atmospheric temperature need to be below freezing for snow to occur, hence why snow is quite rare here.
On the other hand, Atlanta gets a lot of rain evenly distributed throughout the year. While snowfall adds up to 2.2 inches per winter if it does occur, the average annual precipitation is measured at 50.43 inches.
When Does It Snow in Atlanta?
The heaviest single snowfall recorded in Atlanta took place on January 23, 1940, with a total of around 10 inches of snow. This is almost nothing compared to many other parts of the US and even within Georgia, but it’s not the only type of winter weather you can expect there. Ice storms are more frequent and cause more problems for the people of Atlanta, with the most severe occurring on January 7, 1973.
1993 Storm of the Century
A notable snowfall in Atlanta was March 13, 1993, when several neighborhoods had multiple inches of snow (most about 4, while some as much as 7-8 inches). This blizzard caught the Southeast off-guard, with 4.5 inches settling at Atlanta airport. Dallas, a suburb to the west-northwest, received 17.5 inches from this storm.
Moreover, people were woken up by thunder and lightning. Snowdrifts were recorded in northern Cobb County, where over 15 inches fell. The only comparison in recorded history was the Great Blizzard of 1899 which led to ice-covered roads and over a foot of snow in most city areas and beyond.
Moreover, the “Snowmaggedon” of January 28, 2014, brought some light snow but managed to cause havoc as it occurred in the middle of the day and came with very low temperatures creating ice patches on roads. Consequently, this led to people being stuck in traffic for hours and some even spending the night on highways. There are some impressive photos of the aftermath here.
A white Christmas doesn’t often occur in Atlanta or Georgia in general. In fact, in 2010, those living in the city had the first white Christmas since 1882-1883. However, it was a particularly bad weather year: a major snow and ice storm later that winter almost prevented the inauguration of the new governor of Georgia.
2010 – A Top Snow Year
Three-four major snowstorms occurred in 2010, which made it the snowiest winter since the 1970s. This is how Atlantans got a white Christmas, despite earlier weather predictions of a warm and dry winter. There were 1.2 inches of snow on Christmas Day 2010.
How Can You Prepare for Snow in Atlanta?
It’s not just the usual lack of snow that baffles Atlantans when they do get a snowstorm: it’s the infrastructure and the lack of experience with this type of weather that makes things difficult. Not having easy access to snowplows, snow shovels, or winter tires means cars get stuck, schools close and people can become quite stranded from the lightest snowfall.
Any time between December and March, you could be hit with snow in Atlanta if the temperatures drop low enough and there’s sufficient precipitation to lead to snow. However, Atlanta receives around 0.12 inches at most in December, on a regular year. Still, Atlantans suffer from being unable to get home and becoming severely impacted by snow when it does occur.
Follow weather warnings and reports and act accordingly. If they are wrong (as was the case with snow in 2010), here are some quick tips for how to deal with Atlanta snow:
- Check your car is ready for winter. Your tires should be well inflated, and you can get a screen wash additive to mix in with your normal screen wash liquid, preventing it from freezing. Many advise having a winter car kit if you get stuck on the road: a blanket, a shovel, spare food, water, and torches.
- Stockpile some non-perishable food. Keep some cans of food in your pantry so you don’t find yourself unable to cook a meal when the snow closes the roads.
- Think about what could be affected. A plumber can check outdoor pipes so you can cover them to prevent them from freezing. If you have trees with big branches around the house or garden, getting those cut down could prevent an accident if the branches become too heavy with snow.
- Have a grab bag. Pack a small duffel bag you can take with you if you need to evacuate quickly. This should have your regular medicine and any essentials, but be light and easy to carry in an emergency.
Winter Activities in Atlanta
Although snow is often not part of the winter attractions in this part of Georgia, there’s still a lot to do in and around Atlanta by hiking, walking, and biking to top destinations. Here are some top favorites.
Stone Mountain Park
Drive just about 20 minutes east of the city, and you’ll find yourself in 3200 acres of stunning outdoor scenery. There are nature trails to hike on, and you can climb to the top of Snow Mountain to see all your surroundings. With a dusting of snow, everything will be even more romantic, of course.
The park also offers golf, a 363-acre lake, and historic buildings such as the 732-bell Carillon, the picturesque Grist Mill, the historic Washington W. King covered bridge and more.
You don’t need to leave Atlanta to enjoy quality nature time in a beautiful park. This one is popular with the locals, an excellent spot for outdoor picnics and sunshine, or a brilliant place to play in the snow. Pop into the Atlanta Botanical Garden next door for an immersive plant experience, too.
For those who want to hike up a mountain, the Arabia Mountain National Heritage Area welcomes visitors just south of Lithonia on Interstate 20. Start your visit at the Davidson-Arabia Mountain Nature Preserve, where you can learn about the fascinating geological history of the area and pick up your hiking maps. There is also a multi-use PATH bike trail you can use.
Cascade Springs Nature Preserve
Heading into southwest Atlanta, you’ll find a surprising natural running and hiking destination that rewards you with great views. The Cascade Springs Nature Preserve covers around 120 acres and is not just for nature lovers: you’ll find lots of remnants of Civil Water battles and a historic springhouse here, along with the climbable waterfall.
Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area
Another great destination within the Atlanta perimeter is the Chattahoochee River, a great place to go for a walk on sunny winter days. Depending on the weather, you can kayak and canoe on its waters or even go fishing. The scenery will light up around you if it’s snowy and make for some fantastic photos and hiking backgrounds.
Does it snow in Atlanta? Yes… Sometimes!
While there isn’t a lot of snow in Atlanta, it’s good to be prepared for all eventualities and never write it off. Most winters are relatively mild compared to the rest of the country, but the odd snowstorm has put people in difficulty, so be sure to follow the advice above and always be ready for it!