A mixed January weekend ahead for Houston

We’ve got a little something for almost everyone over the next several days: Cool temps, warm temps, some humidity, and some rain too. A potpourri of mostly low impact weather.

Today

Southeast Texas should be able to squeeze out one more super nice day before clouds arrive this weekend. We may have a bit of a hazy morning with generally poor air quality. There’s even some locally dense fog south and west of Houston this morning. But it will eventually flip to sunshine. We’ll manage to climb into at least the mid-70s with just a slight nudge up in humidity by later today and tonight. Clouds should begin to break out tonight, which will keep temperatures a bit warmer than they have been of late. We’ll bottom out around 60, if not even a little warmer in spots.

Saturday

I would expect partly to mostly cloudy skies tomorrow. If you have morning plans, it should be mostly fine, though a few isolated showers may begin to break out in spots by mid or late morning. If you have afternoon plans, more showers will develop, especially toward the north and west of Houston. So you may dodge raindrops. That should become a little more widespread Saturday evening, along with a slight chance of thunder. Temperatures will jump well into the 70s to near 80 degrees tomorrow before dropping back into the 50s tomorrow night.

Rain totals will average a half to three-quarters of an inch, with some places seeing less and others more tomorrow. (Pivotal Weather)

Rain totals may be held back some due to the scattered nature of the storms, but most of us will get at least some rain, with an average of a half-inch to three-quarters of an inch. Some may see less, and others could see as much as 2 or 3 inches in the most steady storms.

Sunday

Expect the inverse of Saturday: Some morning showers south and east of Houston but then decreasing clouds and increasing sunshine. It will be a good 10 to 15 degrees cooler on Sunday, with highs in the mid-60s.

Early next week

We may be in and out of clouds or some patchy fog on Monday and Tuesday into Wednesday. Other than that, it will be generally fair and mild. We think. With the weekend front sort of parked offshore, some coastal areas may see a few showers. Either way, it looks like a mostly quiet period, with increasing temperatures. We’ll warm from the mid to upper 60s Monday into the mid-70s by Wednesday, with morning lows generally in the 50s or upper-40s. Not bad for January.

Late next week and beyond

The next front in line is penciled in for Thursday. That should come with some showers or a thunderstorm, but it’s still a bit soon to speculate on how widespread any rain will be. More importantly, that front ushers in what should be our coolest air mass of 2023, with lows in the 40s by Friday, Saturday, and probably Sunday.

Behind Thursday’s front, we should see rather cool weather. The initial read on the Houston Marathon remains positive. (Weather Bell)

Our outlook for the Houston Marathon has held fairly steady this week. Today it looks like morning 40s, quickly rising into the 50s and low-60s with light winds and dry weather. A lot can change in 9 days, but right now, we’re sitting in a decent spot.

Days 10-15 look quite warm, with both the Euro (shown here) and GFS indicating above normal temperatures after next Sunday. (Weather Bell)

It appears that any cool weather will be short-lived however, as we expect a pretty significant warm up after Sunday next weekend. We have pretty healthy model agreement on temperatures warming deep into the 70s as the weather pattern amplifies warmer over us for several days the week of the 16th.

Houston will kick off 2023 on a very, very warm note

It was 15 degrees in Houston a week ago this morning. We managed 77 degrees yesterday afternoon. The winter roller coaster is here. In addition to the warmth, we saw some pretty gnarly storms over parts of the area, even a Tornado Warning down near Galveston.

Rain totals were highest southeast of Houston, especially in Galveston and Chambers County, which saw 3 to 6 inches of rain. (NOAA NSSL)

As Eric accurately noted yesterday, the rainfall was quite erratic. Rain totals ranged from over 5 inches near in Galveston County to next to nothing in western Harris, northern Fort Bend, and southern Waller Counties. In between, it was hit and miss. Some areas saw tremendous displays of lightning, while others may have only heard some distant rumblings. So it goes. We’ll settle in to some very mild but fair weather over the next few days before our next speed bump on Monday.

Today

We have a little patchy fog in spots this morning. Other than that, just a lot of clouds. On the whole, we’ll call it “decreasing clouds” with hopefully a bit of sunshine later today. Depending on sunshine, we’ll either hit the upper-60s or low-70s today. Accompanying last evening’s system was a very weak front that will make its presence felt tonight, sort of. Light north winds should allow temperatures to dip into the 50s.

Morning lows on Saturday look seasonable across the area, with most spots in the 50s for the last morning of 2022. (Pivotal Weather)

New Year’s Eve & air quality concerns

We should have partly to mostly sunny skies across the area tomorrow, along with highs into the 70s. All your festivities, from “Noon Years” for those of us with little ones to watch parties for TCU hopefully beating up on the Fighting Harbaughs of Michigan to evening celebrations look great. The only thing to watch will be areas of fog near the coast, so use some caution if you’ll be out and about late Saturday night and after midnight Sunday morning.

One word of caution: Fireworks and air quality.

This forecast sounding (vertical wind, temperature, and humidity profile) for midnight on New Year’s is exactly what we do not want to see with fireworks likely being shot off in droves. Unhealthy or even hazardous air quality is possible early Sunday morning. (Pivotal Weather)

Unfortunately, the setup this New Years is going to be one that features mostly light winds and likely a very strong inversion in the atmosphere. In simple language? All the pollution from those fireworks everyone sets off on New Year’s Eve probably isn’t going to go far, and we are likely in for some very unhealthy, if not outright hazardous air quality across the region at times late Saturday night and early Sunday morning. The good news is that winds don’t look totally calm, but they will be light. So if you have respiratory difficulties, it would be a good idea to keep an eye on area air quality readings. Winds and “mixing” will pick up after 9 or 10 AM Sunday. So if we end up with a lot of trapped smoke in the early morning, the afternoon should at least be nicer.

New Year’s Day

As noted, air quality may be an issue Sunday morning, but at least it should become sunny. Some morning fog is possible, if not likely in spots, and clouds will likely increase through the day. Highs could get to 80 degrees in spots. Coastal areas may again see fog persist deep into the day.

Monday

The forecast for Monday continues to look a bit tricky. It may play out very similar to yesterday, with numerous storms, locally heavy rain, and isolated severe weather. Or it could be more widespread. We still don’t have a great handle on this and likely will not until Sunday. Look for an average of a half-inch or so of rain, but it’s likely many places see less and others, especially east of I-45 see 3 inches or more. Highs will top off near 80 in spots, 70s elsewhere.

Rest of next week (and chances of a freeze-peat this winter?)

After Monday’s rain, a cold front and slow clearing should arrive on Tuesday, bringing much cooler weather for Wednesday. We’ll probably drop back to 60s by day and 40s by night for much of the rest of next week. Another warm up is likely late next week or weekend.

We’ve seen a lot of questions about the chances of another freeze this winter. Put simply: We have no idea. There’s no rule that says if you freeze in December like we did this year that it can’t happen again later in January or February. The odds are no different the rest of winter today than they were a month ago. So, yes, it’s possible it could happen again. Likely? Not necessarily. There’s no sign of emergent cold in Canada or the Plains over the next 2 weeks, meaning any strong cold is unlikely here through mid-January. If anything, the jet stream in the Pacific Ocean is trying to ramp up again in mid-January, which could signal another period of warm weather to come. The takeaway? While we see no sign of a freeze-peat right now, that doesn’t mean things can’t change later in January or February. But it’s neither more or less likely than normal because we had one this month.

Happy New Year to you, readers. On behalf of Eric, Maria, Lee, and Dwight, thank you all for a great 2022, and we look forward to another great year in 2023.

The weather outside is quite frightful this morning in Houston

Okay, campers, rise and shine, and don’t forget your booties ’cause it’s cooooold out there today! Unlike 1993’s “Groundhog Day,” this will soon be a distant memory as we warm up heading into next week. But in the meantime, it is our coldest morning since February of 2021. Houston has so far bottomed out at 16°, and the coldest reading I can find as of 6:30 AM is 10° up in New Waverly. I also saw an 11 just outside Tomball. Whatever the case, it’s about 10 to 20 degrees in most places this morning, and it’s cold.

Our coldest morning since February 2021 with temperatures as cold as 10° north of the Houston area, around 13°-19° in most suburbs and much of the city, and near 20° south. (NOAA)

The wind isn’t helping. We continue to see wind gusts up as high as 33 mph in Houston at Hobby Airport and 39 mph in Galveston. The combination of wind and cold makes it feel about as brutal as it can realistically get here in Houston. Wind chills are currently 5° in Galveston, 3° at Bush Airport, 1° at Hobby Airport, and -4° in Conroe.

Anywhere you see white on the map above, wind chills are below zero this morning. Even the warmest locations in the area are seeing wind chills as low as 5 degrees. (Weather Bell)

So before you go out and do that last minute Christmas shopping, please make sure you are adequately dressed. This type of cold can be dangerous, especially for those of us in Texas that are simply not used to temperatures at these levels.

The good news is that roads should be all clear and passable, as we saw no ice or snow with the front yesterday. Travel anywhere across Texas is fine today. If you are flying, please go with a lot of patience. Flights to Chicago are likely to be delayed. Milwaukee’s airport is currently closed. All of these issues will cascade through the system, so flight delays and cancellations are possible anywhere.

Some good news is that ERCOT is in fine shape this morning. As of this writing, Texans are using about 73,000 megawatts (MW) of electricity, and the grid has nearly 85,000 MW available. According to their site, things do get a little tighter looking this evening, as wind falls off versus where it was last night and this morning. As of now, we don’t foresee any serious issues, but given that they failed to forecast the amplitude of the energy demand last night and this morning (they missed by several thousand megawatts), it is worth monitoring later today.

Centerpoint is reporting just shy of 20,000 customers without power this morning. This is due to localized outages from tree branches or power lines being impacted by the strong winds in our area. That number should improve through the day as winds ease up.

Friday

The good news is that the sun will help make it feel just a little less uncomfortable today. Still, expect high temperatures barely scraping 30 degrees in most places. The freeze continues.

High temperatures this afternoon will limp to near 30 degrees, despite the sun. (Pivotal Weather)

Winds will remain blustery today, with gusts of 20 mph inland and 30 mph at the coast. So wind chills will remain a factor all day today as well.

Tonight & Saturday

Most of our attention has been focused on this morning’s temperatures because they were to be the coldest of this event. But tonight will be pretty rough as well. Thankfully, we will see less wind, but we will still likely have a hard freeze almost everywhere, so keep all protective measures for pipes, plants, people, pets, and livestock in place. Some passing cloud cover may prevent temperatures from dropping as far as they did last night and this morning, but it will still be plenty cold.

Overnight lows tonight into Christmas Eve morning will be about 3 to 5 degrees warmer than this morning, give or take. Still, this will lead to another hard freeze in much of the area. (Pivotal Weather)

Saturday should end up being a slightly nicer day. Expect only a light breeze, more sunshine, and temperatures warming above freezing and deep into the 30s.

Sunday & Monday

Christmas Day will be another chilly one, but we’ll be gradually eating away at the cold. Only outlying areas really have a risk for a significant hard freeze Sunday morning, while most of Houston proper, coastal areas, and some of the denser suburbs will probably “only” get to the mid-20s overnight. We’ll turn things up into the 40s on Christmas afternoon.

We may get a weak reinforcing front on Monday. Still, we’ll likely get above 50 degrees Monday afternoon. We’ll have another chilly night Monday night into Tuesday with 30s in most spots and perhaps a few high 20s in outlying areas.

Rest of next week

Tuesday will see highs in the 50s or low-60s, Wednesday in the 60s or low-70s, and Thursday into the 70s. In fact, we’ll probably see highs in the 60s and 70s and lows in the 50s or 60s straight through New Years weekend. The weather may turn more unsettled late next week as well, but details on that are minimal this far out. We’ll tackle that next week.

A Saturday update on the growing potential of a hard freeze for the Houston area next week

Good afternoon. Eric and I felt it was a good idea to post an update today on the growing potential that a hard freeze will impact Houston later this upcoming week. Since yesterday, there have been a handful of changes. I will admit that the behavior of yesterday’s front (somewhat stronger and faster than expected) factored into some of this thinking. Sometimes we refer to this as “recency bias,” but truthfully, sometimes the atmosphere can offer up some hints to help us as forecasters.

Bottom line: Temperatures are going to absolutely plummet Thursday afternoon, likely from the 60s or 70s into the 30s over the course of about 4 to 6 hours. We will drop below freezing Thursday afternoon or evening and may not get back up above freezing until Saturday. Overnight lows Thursday night into Friday will likely drop into the teens or low-20s for the city of Houston and most surrounding areas away from the immediate coast. In addition, potent northerly winds will create dangerous wind chill values in the single digits from Thursday evening through Friday morning. We do not expect any snow or ice at this time, a key difference from February 2021, in addition to the intensity and duration of cold.

Friday morning’s forecast low temperatures from the European model are definitely cold, not nearly to the extent of February 2021 on a Texas-wide scale, but cold enough to damage plants and exposed pipes. (Pivotal Weather)

Preparedness

A few thoughts on preparedness for this event. The duration of this cold, the lack of snow and ice, and the intensity of the cold statewide will still lag February 2021, so at this point, we’ll take ERCOT at their word that grid conditions should be manageable. Still, having a winter preparedness kit at the ready is never a bad idea.

This will be a painful freeze for plants, especially given the wind that will accompany the cold. Make every effort to ensure that any tropical plants are protected and as secure as possible, as the wind will be enough to dismantle any weak, unsecured covering.

If you have one, make sure your irrigation system is protected, drained, and turned off.

If you are leaving town late this week, it would be a good idea to consider turning off the main water supply to your home before you go out of an abundance of caution.

Any winterization you can do this weekend or before you leave town is good and will help. If we end up 5 degrees warmer than forecast, great. Please don’t forget pets, livestock, and any folks you know that are extra vulnerable to cold.

Some winter preparedness tips from the National Weather Service (NWS Houston)

Again, this is different than February 2021’s event and should not be quite as bad, but it will be able to cause problems of its own.

Sunday through Wednesday

The forecast is mostly unchanged from yesterday. We expect widespread rain Monday and lingering showers into Tuesday morning. Wednesday should be fine.

Thursday and Friday

The exact timing of the cold front is impossible to pin down right now. Most models point to late afternoon, and given the potential “stronger, faster” behavior of the front, I would lean toward late morning or midday in Houston proper, sooner north and west, later south and east. While we cannot say exactly what the temperature drop will be behind the front, it easily looks to be 30 to 40 degrees colder over a very short period of time. If you are working Thursday, be prepared for a completely different kind of weather when you leave work than when you go to work.

The good news is that this looks like a dry front, so we do not expect rain, snow, or ice. That helps differentiate this a lot from February 2021, when it was impossible to even travel due to ice and snow.

The bad news is that this will be accompanied by wind gusts of 20 to 30 mph or even stronger. That, plus the combination of plunging temperatures will make Thursday night and Friday morning dangerously cold outdoors. Look for lows in the upper teens to low-20s. We could nudge things up or down from here as we get new data in the coming days.

Wind chill values (shown here from today’s European model) are likely to be in the single digits late Thursday night and Friday morning, dangerously cold for being outdoors in Houston. (Pivotal Weather)

The good news is that Friday should be sunny. The bad news is that we may be lucky to reach 32 degrees. The sun will surely help matters on Friday, but it will be deceptive and remain very, very cold and breezy through the day. Another night in the 20s seems likely Friday night into Saturday morning. Some models do show high clouds streaming through, which could help keep temps up a bit for night two of the freeze, but it’s too soon to bank on that.

Next weekend

After another cold morning Saturday, we should expect to rise above freezing Saturday afternoon (currently thinking about 35-40 degrees). Lows in the 20s will again be possible Saturday night, though not as cold as Thursday and Friday nights. Sunday should see highs back in the 40s.

It’s too soon to completely rule out the possibility of a system Sunday or Monday that could bring some wintry precipitation to the area, but I will be honest and tell you that our already low odds have dropped since yesterday and Thursday. Alas, despite the cold, as of now we think travel across Texas will be fine through the holiday weekend. We will share more about weather across Texas for the holiday weekend as we get closer. Eric will have the latest on our forecast tomorrow.