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White Christmas here? When hell freezes over

Posted at 1:56 PM, Dec 23, 2015
and last updated 2015-12-24 14:49:12-05

WATCH highlights from the 2004 pre-Christmas snowstorm in the video player above.

CINCINNATI – Do you remember snow on Christmas in the Tri-State? Do you remember the last time hell froze over?

A white Christmas in Cincinnati is almost as rare as 65-degree temperatures, thunderstorms and tornado watches two days before. A white Christmas is defined as an inch or more of snow on the ground on Christmas morning, according to the National Weather Service.

The NWS in Wilmington, Ohio, has collected some cool data on white Christmas in Cincinnati (and Dayton and Columbus, too).

Bet you didn't know that there have been just 16 white Christmases in 100 years here since snow depth measurements began in Cincinnati in 1916.

And most of our white Christmases have been merry and light. Only once has Cincinnati received more than 3 inches of snow on Christmas Day (3.7 inches in 1909).

Our most recent white Christmas occurred in 2010 when there was 4 inches of snow on the ground in the morning. Only 1.1 inches fell that day -  the rest was left over from Dec. 16 (4.1 in.) and Dec. 20 (1.4 in.).

RELATED: Tri-State under Severe Weather Alert. See when it will hit.

WHAT'S HAPPENING NOW: Check the radar map, current conditions and the latest forecast.

You have to go back to 2004 to remember the next most recent white Christmas -  and it was one of our snowiest and coldest.

Two weeks earlier, we were out in T-shirts and shorts when the high temperature hit 65 degrees on Dec. 7. But a cold blast arrived on Dec. 19 and the overnight low dropped to minus-3. The snow started falling on Dec.  22, while  many people were still gift-shopping or just getting started. By the end of the day, 6.8 inches were on the ground - and another 2.6 inches fell on Dec. 23.

The 9-plus inches wreaked havoc on roads and the airport. Some people didn't make it to Grandma's house or home for Christmas. That was the same year a massive software crash at Comair, then a regional airline based at Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport, grounded 1,100 flights on Christmas Day and stranded travelers here and nationwide.

When Santa Claus flew in on his sleigh on Christmas morning, it was minus-3 degrees and Cincinnati was covered in a blanket of white.

With our ever-changing weather, Cincinnati kids have a better chance of riding their new bikes in spring-like temperatures on Christmas than riding their new sleds. Since 1871, there have been 28 Christmases when temperatures reached at least 50. That includes seven Christmases when the high was over 60.

There were 31 Christmases when the high temperature was below 30.

Here are some Cincinnati Christmas Day weather records for 1871-2014 from the NWS in Wilmington:

> Warmest High Temperature: 66  (1893)
> Coldest High Temperature: 3 (1983)
> Coldest Low Temperature: minus-12 (1983)
> Warmest Low Temperature: 58  (1889)
> Most Precipitation: 1.12 inches (1957)
> Most Snowfall: 3.7 inches (1909)
> Greatest Snow Depth: 9 inches (2004)

GO to the NWS website to find out more about Christmas weather in Cincinnati.