Sleet, freezing rain, and snow falling over Houston—what’s next?

As temperatures have plunged across the Houston area during the last six hours, rain has turned into a wintry mix of sleet, freezing rain, and snow. (Yes, it has already snowed lightly at Bush Intercontinental Airport this morning, the first time that has happened three times in a winter season since 1973). Here’s a look at what happens next.

More precipitation is coming

Houston has seen some breaks in the rain and sleet this morning, but there are additional areas of precipitation to the west of the region that will move into the metro area today. Although accumulations are unlikely to be too significant, it doesn’t take much moisture on the surface of a road to make it slick. Forecast models have been pretty consistent in bringing additional rounds of sleet, freezing rain, and snow through the region until about 4pm to 6pm CT today. Snow is more likely than other precipitation types this afternoon.

Houston radar at 10:55am CT on Tuesday. (Intellicast)

Roads are starting to freeze

Houston Transtar is keeping a (steadily growing) list of roadways affected by ice in the metro area. So far, most of the problems have occurred to the north, in Montgomery County, and west of Houston. This is understandable, as those areas have experienced freezing conditions for a longer period of time. Most roadways within Houston itself are still covered with just water, because the ground is still “warm” from Monday, when highs reached into the upper 60s. But now that most of Houston is now at about 30 degrees, and likely to slip into the upper 20s this afternoon, wet roads will gradually become icy roads—especially bridges and overpasses. How much of an ice rink Houston becomes depends upon the amount of precipitation this afternoon. With enough wind and breaks in the precipitation, there is a chance for some evaporation and perhaps we will have dry roads by the time the hard freeze hits tonight. Perhaps. But probably not. Best to leave work early today, if possible, and stay home this evening.

Road conditions Wednesday

We’re not sure what Houston will wake up to tomorrow. If roads are icy this evening after the sun sets, they’re likely to remain icy overnight. Ice on untreated roads, of course, will not melt when the temperature is below freezing. At sub-freezing temperatures it also cannot sublimate (convert from ice directly into water vapor) without energy, which it gets from the Sun. Therefore the status of roads on Wednesday morning will be determined by two factors: the extent to which they are wet tonight, and the ability of road crews to treat them with a salt-based solution that lowers the freezing point of water. If roads are icy on Wednesday morning, I’d expect them to improve pretty quickly by 9 or 10am on Wednesday morning, as sunlight spreads over the region.

Hard freeze tonight

The other thing we’re watching closely is the likelihood of very cold temperatures tonight, with teens possible for many areas north of Interstate 10.

Forecast lows for Wednesday morning. (National Weather Service)

All precautions for people, pets, plants, and pipes should be made for what will be one of the coldest nights this century in Houston and surrounding areas. Looking at you, Huntsville!

Note

Just a word of thanks to Reliant, for keeping the site free, and the lights on, during severe weather events such as this winter storm.

29 thoughts on “Sleet, freezing rain, and snow falling over Houston—what’s next?”

  1. Poor Eric! You ran the marathon on Sunday and instead of well-deserved rest afterward, you’re forecasting around the clock! Thank you for what you (and Matt) do.

    • I’m just glad the marathon wasn’t this morning. Although I do wonder if they would have canceled it.

      With that said, I’m sitting down, and using my brain instead of my legs. So it’s all good.

      • I don’t know if they would have cancelled, Eric. The marathon of 1997 was held in nasty conditions…cold, wet, windy.

        • I remember that marathon! I had icicles on my baseball cap and my running tights froze on me.

  2. Yes, thank you Reliant! And thank you Eric, for continued input. I was just wondering if you were going to supplement your post today!

  3. I live near 99 in Katy & can hear people flying down the road like a regular day. 99 thru Katy is almost all overpass & is icy & slick. Please remind people to SLOW DOWN!!!

  4. I was with a couple of friends hiking in Colorado during Harvey, and we relied heavily on your forecast and knowledge. 3 canceled flights later, we drove home. Now I’m with one of the same friends in Colorado skiing, and supposed to fly home today. Once again, we are closely watching your posts. Just want to say Thank You! for doing such a great job!!!!

  5. Eric,

    Three times it’s snowed? I know the December 7-8 and today. When was the third (or are you counting the 7th and 8th as two separate times?)

  6. Definitely a huge kudos to those working out there right now to keep the lights and power on for all of Houston!! We salute you!!

  7. Interesting morning…. woke up and saw an email saying report to work, then two hours after getting there we’re told to go home.

  8. Thank you and thank Reliant. Not only keeping the site free, also quickly get my power outage back on line in a short time. We thank you all.

  9. Thanks so much, Eric, for the updates throughout the day. Space City Weather is the first thing I read every morning. Really appreciate the work you all do!

  10. Is Dear Fulgacio ok? I hope Armando is keeping him toasty, warm, and safe in this massive freeze!!! Our thoughts are with him!

  11. At 1 PM in The Woodlands some snow flurries and windy. Temp about 26 F. Streets inside The Woodlands still are wet, no freezing, but shoulders appear to have some ice on them. Some ice on sidewalk from house to driveway.
    Also, be careful if you’re at any shopping center! The curbs above parking lot surface here had a sheen of ice on them.

    Put some bird seed and sunflower seed out and had a veritable zoo of birds in my back yard.

  12. 🙂 With weekend lows originally forecast in the mid to upper 20s, I covered my plants on Friday afternoon. Felt like an idiot on Sunday, but sure glad I didn’t have to get out there today! 🙂

    Real snow continues to fall lightly in The Woodlands.

  13. Thanks Eric for your great updates. In Galvrston west end we have a coating of ice from sleet that has been coming down intermittently. We are very thankful Our power has flickered but stayed on!

  14. Oh, wait, I see the storm’s name is “Inga.” Sounds like a nice, cold name! Keep on keeping on, Eric. You’re no Jeff Linder, but you’ll do 🙂

  15. During tough weather, like today’s, I forward your blog to my Facebook page, primarily for my Houston friends. I’m sure that my friends in States such as those in the northern part of the U.S. are having a good laugh over how we go nuts in weather such as ours. Except I like for them to see, that we have great access to weather info we can depend on when the going gets rough.
    Thanks guys, for watching out for us.

  16. the Weather Channel has branded it Winter Storm “Inga”. I wonder which Norse god or goddess we pissed off with that name. LOL!

  17. Are we going to have a heat wave in February so that on everage we had a warmer than normal winter. Ps. I am glad we had this cold weather. Need to kill the sod web worms and weeds and Harvey residue.

  18. You’ve made it onto Houston Ice Storm Bingo going around FB. “Rekindle lapsed relationship with inclement weather baes Jeff Linder and Eric Berger”

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