The last time measurable snow fell in San Francisco was February 7, 1976, when snow covered the Golden Gate Bridge and Marin Headlands, with snowflakes also coming down to sea level. But February 5, 1887, saw the city's most plentiful snowstorm ever recorded — when nearly 4" of snow buried downtown.
February is historically one of the Bay Area's wettest months of the year. However, we've yet to see a single snowflake or drop of rain in much of the region; this dry spell has also been observed elsewhere in Northern California. According to UCLA climate scientist Daniel Swain, Northern California could very well see extremely dry conditions — "with zero rain or snow in most spots" — for another week or two.
Or longer. During what's supposed to be one of the wettest times of the year, mind you.
3.7" of snow fell in downtown San Francisco on this date 135 years ago (2/5/1887). This remains the greatest snowfall in San Francisco's history. #CAwx #BayAreaWX #SanFrancisco pic.twitter.com/Tmpn1ulFYJ— NWS Bay Area 🌉 (@NWSBayArea) February 5, 2022
But rewind the clock back 135 years, and San Francisco was far from a parched metropolitan on this very day. If anything, it was more like a winter wonderland when 3.7" of powdery snow was recorded in downtown SF. At higher elevations in the western portion of the city, the snow was commonly over 7" deep in places.
"3.7 [inches] of snow fell in downtown San Francisco on this date 135 years ago (2/5/1887),” reads a tweet sent from National Weather Service San Francisco Bay Area. "This remains the greatest snowfall in San Francisco's history."
According to OpenSFHistory, denizens of the seven-by-seven woke up on that Saturday in 1887 to mounds of snow on the ground, a frozen deluge that started around 3:00 a.m. — and it just kept coming down for hours more. (Apparently, children didn't have a school snow day, as there weren't any school cancellations recorded that day.)
San Franciscans were pictured in now archived photographs sledding down the city's famously steep inclines, throwing snowballs at one another — though, seemingly a fair amount of injuries and property damage were observed a result of that day's snowball wars; Chinese Americans were also targeted and were “unmercifully mauled," per the Chronicle — and donning all sorts of winter weather regalia as they made their way through a tundra-like San Francisco.
Golden Gate Park received some of the deepest accumulations of snow recorded that day in San Francisco, with park workers measuring the snow at an entire foot deep in some parts of the beloved green space. Windows were broken under the weight of the mounded snow at the Conservatory of Flowers; tree branches came crashing down as a result of accumulated snow. But all in all, Golden Gate Park (and much of the city, for that matter) exited the snowstorm, more or less, intact and primarily undamaged.
Since 1887, San Francisco has seen just six snowstorms that afford the city with a white blanket of frozen precipitation. Alas, it's been over 45 years since we've seen any semblance of significant snowfall anywhere in SF. And if weather patterns are to continue on as forecasted, it'll likely be a good while longer until San Francisco sees another snow day. Or any sort of precipitation for that matter.
Photo: Getty Images/eugenesergeev