Month: January 2018

Houston emerges from winter’s deep freeze

Posted by Matt Lanza at 6:23 AM

Today’s the day. Yesterday was more of a false start than anything. We had a modest cloud deck that just setup shop overhead on Thursday, causing temperatures to stay in the 30s all afternoon once more. Today, regardless of clouds, we will finally leave the frigid weather behind this afternoon. But that does come with some rain chances.

Today

It’s starting off cold once again this morning, but not nearly like we’ve seen. Officially, we didn’t get below the mid-30s overnight. And the entire region is pretty uniform this morning, averaging between 35 and 40 degrees as of 6 AM.

A very uniform temperature map in Southeast Texas, with mid-30s to around 40° in most spots. (NOAA/NWS)

Clouds are firmly entrenched over the area, which has helped keep temperatures above freezing just about everywhere. These clouds will continue to hold firm today. Meanwhile, a system off the coast will bring scattered showers to the area through the day. El Campo and Bay City are already seeing some of that this morning. They will spread north as the morning goes on. The odds for rain will diminish as you head north and west of Houston however. So in this scenario, rain is more likely in League City than, say, Hempstead. Included with the rain will be a slight chance for thunderstorms near the coast. Nothing serious, but don’t be shocked if you hear some thunder in Galveston or south toward Matagorda Bay.

Rainfall amounts should average about a quarter of an inch south of I-10 and east of US-59 south of Houston. A few isolated spots could see a half-inch or so. North and west of Houston, most areas will see a tenth of an inch, give or take through Saturday morning. Temperatures today will need some encouragement, but they should top off in the lower or middle 50s by later this afternoon.

Weekend

Saturday should feature mostly cloudy skies with a slight shower chance. Most of us probably stay dry Saturday, but there could be a brief shower at virtually any point during the day anywhere in the region. That chance continues Saturday night and it may increase a bit during the day Sunday. On Sunday night, a cold front will sweep through the region, bringing a short period of showers and a chance of thunderstorms, especially along and north of I-10. Total precipitation this weekend will vary, averaging around a quarter to half-inch of rain in most spots; some could see a bit more, some a bit less.

But break out the shorts, as temperatures will feel downright warm (only being half sarcastic). Look for Saturday morning to start in the low-50s, warming into the upper-60s to around 70° Saturday afternoon, maybe even a bit warmer in spots. Sunday starts in the upper-50s to low-60s and warms into the lower or middle 70s!

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Yesterday I received several questions on Twitter, Facebook, and during a radio appearance about what this very cold start to 2018—temperatures are about 8 degrees below normal, and we have now had eight nights with lows in the 20s—portends for the rest of the year. For example, does a cold start to the year give us momentum for a cooler-than-normal summer? Alas, the answer is almost certainly no. Historically, there is little connection between winter weather and the subsequent summer. In fact, I’d offer the year 2011 as a counterpoint to this notion. During that year we had an especially cold start to February. Here’s a climate graphic from that month:

February, 2011, climate graph for Houston. (National Weather Service)

Note the frigid temperatures in the first half of the month, with nine nights in the 20s at Bush Intercontinental Airport, including five at 25 degrees or below. These are all hard freezes. A lot of you will remember the rest of the story, as 2011 ended up being the city’s hottest year on record at the time. August was especially brutal, with all but one of the days that month reaching 100 degrees.

August, 2011 temperature graph. (National Weather Service)

All of those stars in the graph above are record high temperatures. It was an absolutely brutal month. Let’s hope we’re not bound for similar weather this year.

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Houston just had its coldest night since 1996

Posted by Eric Berger at 7:28 AM

It’s an icebox out there, folks. After Tuesday night’s precipitation, skies cleared out from north to south, and shortly after midnight many areas saw stars. This, in conjunction with very cold Arctic air, brought the low in Huntsville down to 13 degrees this morning, as of 7am CT. Most of central Houston saw temperatures from 18 to 20 degrees. Even Galveston, our balmy, tropical Galveston with its lovely palm trees, fell to 25 degrees. The following map shows temperatures across Texas this morning.

Wednesday temperatures at 7am CT. (Weather.us)

It does not appear as though Houston will set a record low temperature for today (which is 15 degrees, set in 1930). However, this is the coldest it has been in the city since January, 1996, and the region has not registered a colder temperature since Dec. 24, 1989.

Wednesday

Area roadways remain a mess. Although some roads have dried out from Tuesday’s precipitation, ice remains a problem across the city—mostly on bridges and overpasses. As of 7am, Houston Transtar reports 137 areas of ice on roadways, and these are only the major thoroughfares. Sunny skies today will help the process of sublimating ice on roads, and by noon temperatures should reach above freezing for most of the metro area. Until then, travel will be dicey through the area. Check your route before you leave home. By this afternoon roads should be clear.

Highs today will reach the mid- to upper 30s before another cold night with lows around 20 north of the city, in the mid-20s in Houston, and near freezing along the coast.

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Good evening. The last round of sleet and snow is marching through the Houston area, and by around 8pm the precipitation should be done for Houston today. For the next 24 hours there are three issues I want to discuss—icy roads this evening, frigid temperatures tonight, and when roads will clear on Wednesday.

Icy roads Tuesday night

Road conditions continue to worsen across the metro area this evening, and with sub-freezing temperatures and the loss of sunlight, there will be no real opportunity for concrete and asphalt to dry out. Already, Houston Transtar has reported 100 locations on major area roadways with ice, and that tally should continue to rise. Please do not venture out this evening or tonight, if at all possible. Sure, there is a chance you will make it to your destination without a problem. But there also is a chance you will not, and then place yourself, your passengers, and first responders in additional danger.

Overnight lows

Houston faces a very, very cold night. Clouds this evening should help trap some of the heat, but some models predict that skies will begin to clear after midnight, and the earlier this occurs tonight, the better the chance for temperatures to really bottom out. The forecast shown below, from the National Weather Service, reflects what I think is a realistic worst-case scenario for lows tonight.

Forecast lows for Tuesday night and Wednesday morning. (National Weather Service)

You may have some concerns about pipes, given the cold temperatures. This site provides some good, general advice for a freeze like Houston will experience tonight. By the way, the record low for Jan. 17 in Houston is 15 degrees, set in 1930.

Wednesday’s roads

School districts faced a difficult call in regard to Wednesday. On one hand, it is going to be decidedly frigid on Wednesday morning, and some roads will certainly be icy in the Houston metro area. On the other hand, at some point Wednesday the ice is going to melt and it will be business as usual for Houston. Moreover, kids in most districts have already missed at least 12 days due to weather-related closures. In the end, almost every school district opted for the safe choice, and closed their doors.

Frankly, I’m not sure what conditions we’re going to see Wednesday morning. I think a fair number of roadways will be passable, but at the same time untreated bridges and overpasses will be deceptively dangerous. The big question for me is how much of the metro area’s elevated roadways will be treated with a solution to effectively melt the ice? I don’t know.

What I am confident in is that, sometime between 10am and noon on Wednesday, as the Sun comes out, and temperatures rise to above freezing, Houston’s roads will melt and dry pretty quickly—for good. By this weekend we should see highs rebound to the 60s, and we should remain there for most of the rest of the month.