John Metcalfe was CityLab’s Bay Area bureau chief, covering climate change and the science of cities.
Get ahead of this weather phenomenon before it’s debunked on Snopes.
A minivan in Florida sits door-handle deep in white powder, while a bulldozer clears the road in the distance. Did the Great Southern Snowstorm of 1977 just repeat itself?
Although imminent chain emails from your relatives will undoubtedly claim so, the answer is “nope.” These car-engulfing drifts are something native and well-known, just relocated to an unusual place—Florida’s sparkling, ivory sand.
Turbulent weather and powerful waves have moved massive amounts of sand onto the roads at Gulf Islands National Seashore, southeast of Pensacola on the Florida Panhandle. Tyler Eliasen, a meteorologist with Panama City’s WMBB News, tweets this gritty invasion was caused by days of “strong onshore flow, high surf, and coastal flooding.” The park reports that several areas are closed due to mounds as deep as five feet.
Although the identity of the poor soul whose car is doomed in sand is uncertain, one person, whose Facebook page says he works at nearby beaches, is stepping up with a story:
This is my friends van, went surfing at 8am at the point, came back and it started stalling, from the high water. Park rangers picked them up, 30+ mph winds. No, it's not photoshopped people.
A different man has another guess. “Im laughing at the people who think this van was placed there on accident,” he writes. “Insurance folks, insurance.”