If you are hoping to visit the Home of the Blues and the Birthplace of Rock 'n Roll in the winter, or you live in Memphis in southwest Tennessee, learn before you go about the typical chilly and humid weather conditions and the possibility of snow.
Statistically, Memphis receives an average of 3 inches of snow per year—spread out over the duration of the winter—and this may include several different snowfalls. January's average snowfall is 2 inches and the average in February is 1 inch; the other 10 months have so little of the white powder that there is no average snowfall. The coldest months in Memphis are usually from November through February.
History of Snow in Memphis
Many longtime residents of Memphis maintain that the city used to receive more snow. Theories to explain why that would occur include global warming. Also, some believe that the several bluffs of the Mississippi River—located on the western border of Memphis, known as "The Bluff City"—deflect the snow because of their dolostone on top, a form of limestone that doesn’t easily erode. The "pyramid theory" suggests that the Bass Pro Pyramid, a former events arena that was turned into a sporting goods store, divert snow storms coming in from the west; this remains unproven and is highly unlikely.
The two biggest snowfalls in Memphis history actually were long ago, giving some credence to the notion that the city used to see more snow. On March 17, 1892, more than 100 years ago, the first of these occurred, depositing a full 18 inches of snow on the ground. The second took place on March 21–23, 1968, when the city ended up with an impressive 17.3 inches of snow.
In February of 1994, Memphis was struck by a major ice storm that caused significant damage to trees and power lines, leaving more than 300,000 people without electricity for days and, in some cases, more than two weeks.
What to Know About Memphis Snow
The Tennessee city may not receive anything close to someplace like Mount Washington, New Hampshire, which has an average of 282 inches of snow per year. In fact, it's more likely that Memphis will experience several days annually with winter precipitation such as ice, sleet, and freezing rain. You can certainly expect some winter weather and icy cold days several times during the year.
Staying Safe in Memphis Winter Conditions
When snow or ice is forecast for Memphis, the city shuts down quickly, so make sure you go to a grocery store beforehand and pick up emergency supplies like bottled water and non-perishable food. It is also wise to grab some batteries and flashlights in case the power goes out.
If you are driving in icy conditions, go slowly and increase the distance between your car and the car in front of you, typically allowing the length of about three to four cars if possible. Drivers who move too fast without keeping a proper distance between behind other nearby cars can end up spinning off the road.