When people think of Savannah, they think of sweltering hot summer (and spring and fall and, yes, sometimes even winter) days spent languidly draped over fainting couches, palm frond fans merely suggesting a breeze, and mint juleps making the rounds on some screened-in porch somewhere. Or maybe that’s just what I imagined.
There are the live oaks and dreamy Spanish moss. The accents like clover honey. The Victorian mansions with their secret histories unfurling inside. The mosquitoes …no way to make them sound romantic.
What no one tells you about Savannah, though, is that winter is a thing that exists, albeit in a different form than what a Northerner might consider “winter.” This former Northerner certainly wouldn’t have considered 50 degrees and sunny to be “winter” in any proper sense of the word, so let me begin with this caveat: winter here is really not all that bad. I don’t miss shoveling snow. I don’t miss defrosting the car. I definitely don’t miss ruining all of my boots in slushy, salty roadside muck.
That said, if you’re visiting Savannah in the winter months or spending your first winter here as a new resident, there are some things you should know:
1. It gets cold.
Yes, 50-degree days are kind of the norm for most of late fall and early spring. And, yes, by late fall, I mean the end of November and by early spring, I mean early March. But, that said, it does get cold. Overnight lows might drop into the 30s starting in November. That might not sound too bad, but consider the humidity. Savannah is humid, always. So, when temperatures dip, they dip in a bone-chillingly wet kind of way. It probably doesn’t hold a candle to wind chill, but humid chill just chills with a bite.
2. Sometimes, it even snows.
It’s not an everyday occurrence. It’s not even a yearly occurrence. But sometimes, it does snow. Case in point: my second winter here in January of 2018. A freak storm blanketed the region in two to four inches of snow, and below freezing temperatures at night combined with sun during the day turned Savannah into an icy wonderland for days afterwards. The city effectively shut down for four days, and I watched the entire anthology of Harry Potter movies. It was cold, but magical.
3. Then, it’s 75 degrees and sunny.
The swings in temperature are impressive. One day, low of 32. The next day, high of 75. The variety is wonderful, save for the effect on one’s sinuses and wardrobe choices. You might leave in the morning in a winter jacket and be sweating in your wool socks by noon. The key, as it always is: layers …and maybe keeping a pair of flip flops in your car.
4. You will become soft.
Spend a few years, not many even, and the cold will become unbearable. I’m not overreacting. Growing up in Erie, Pennsylvania, I used to wear skirts in a snowstorm (tights and boots required, but still). On trips South, I would mock the weak Floridians breaking out their snowsuits when it dropped below 45. I even donated most of my winter coats before moving here, surely thinking I would never need them again. And good riddance. But, then, what did I do last year? I Amazon primed a puffy down parka as soon as it dropped below 45. On the bright side, you will become unfazed by successive 90-degree days, with a limit, of course. 102 with 100 percent humidity is still unacceptable no matter who you are.
5. Spring is an actual season, and it’s fabulous.
In Pennsylvania, spring consisted of sleety rain and a slight thaw followed by more snow followed by one glorious day where you could wear that light jacket you’d been stowing away all season. In Savannah, spring starts in late February and lasts and lasts until May. Azalea petals flutter through the air. The marshes turn a brilliant, kelly green. And everything important happens because it’s a beautiful window before summer sets in. I truly feel like I never knew the beauty of spring until I moved here, and it makes the (admittedly mild) winter so worth it.