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Photo Vault: Remember when Atlanta was a winter wonderland?

Although Atlantans maybe be blasting the AC this holiday season because of predicted record high temperatures, it isn’t always that way. In fact, five years ago the metro area saw its first white Christmas since the 1880s. Today the Photo Vault takes a short trip back in time when Jack Frost truly nipped at your nose during yuletide.

A National Weather Service report showed that a strong storm system moved across the Southeast on Christmas Day.

Precipitation began Christmas Eve, quickly changing from rain to snow across extreme north Georgia where 6 to 8 inches of snow were reported, but even metro Atlanta saw 1 to3 inches - the first measurable snow on Christmas Day since 1882. As the system slowly moved east, snow continued the next day resulting in additional accumulations across east central Georgia.

Very cold temperatures moved in behind the system and any moisture on the roads froze overnight Christmas night, causing significant road problems. Strong winds, at times gusting to between 25 and 35 mph, also spread across the area on Dec. 26. With high temperatures across most of north Georgia below freezing, wind chills in the single digits were noted throughout the day. Flurries and light snow continued as the storm system moved up the East Coast.

The Christmas Day snow may have seemed magical and romantic, but by the third day, the holiday glow had worn thin. Unaccustomed to the slippery white stuff, metro Atlantans turned their attention to the messy travel conditions following the precipitation.

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With temperatures dropping into the mid-20s, drivers were cautioned to look for ice on the roadways through the next morning, which happened to be a Monday. Twenty transportation crews had been metro highways since 5:30 p.m. Saturday, looking for trouble spots and spreading a salt-sand mix where needed.

Of course the holiday snowfall complicated travel at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport. A Delta Air Lines spokesman told the AJC at the time there were 500 weather-related flight cancellations nationwide that Saturday — including 300 of the 800 scheduled departures from the Atlanta hub.

On the positive side, the snowfall that began Saturday morning transformed metro Atlanta into a once-in-a-century holiday postcard that fulfilled people’s dreams of a white Christmas. The last time the area had a measurable snowfall on Christmas Day was 128 years ago, when 0.3 inch fell.

Many took advantage of the oddity with walks through falling snow, snowmen, snow forts and of course snowball fights. It’s not every year that Atlanta transforms into a winter wonderland.

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