If you talk to almost any Iowan who dislikes snow, winter, and cold, they'll likely agree that they'll put up with those things for two days each year: Christmas Eve and Christmas day. After that, they're ready to say adios to the snow and cold.

While most Hallmark movies show off a snow-covered Christmas, just how likely are we to have one in our neck of the woods? As I write this, there isn't snow in Iowa City or Cedar Rapids. Nor is there north in Waterloo, though there was and it melted.

Photo by Ian Schneider on Unsplash
Photo by Ian Schneider on Unsplash

What are the odds on a white Christmas, anyhow?

Let's establish a couple of rules before we dive into some Iowa snow history.

  • A white Christmas means at least one inch of snow on the ground
  • The chances of a white Christmas will vary between northern Iowa, central Iowa, and southern Iowa

So let's dig in! According to the climate experts at Iowa Weather, the chances of all of Iowa having a white Christmas are actually really slim. It last happened in 2017, but it's not common. Like, at all.

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Breaking down the state a bit more, we'll use highway 20 as our first landmark. Yes, it's a long landmark that stretches from far east to west (or vice versa), but it's a good one.

If you live north of Highway 20, you have a 61 to 75% chance of having a white Christmas based on climatology. That would be the Cedar Valley (Waterloo/Cedar Falls), New Hampton, Mason City, Oelwein, etc.

Meanwhile, those between highway 30 and highway 20 still could certainly see the white stuff, too. The odds of having a white Christmas are between 51 to 60%. That essentially adds Cedar Rapids, but not Iowa City or Coralville.

From highway 30 south to highway 34, which includes Iowa City, Coralville, and Washington (and Des Moines), the odds of seeing the white stuff on Christmas drop to only 41 to 50%.

From point south of highway 34 down to the Missouri border, there's only a 26 to 40% of a white Christmas.


Are you rooting for that white Christmas? Honestly, I'm good with a brown one... since I have family north (quite a ways) of highway 20, I always enjoy being able to get there and back safely. If there was just that magical one inch, so be it... but it always seems to be more. Or, none at all.

Happy holidays!

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