T-1 day until an Arctic freeze moves into the Houston area

All things considered, Tuesday was a really pleasant day. The Sun emerged during the afternoon hours, and high temperatures climbed to nearly 60 degrees. We’ll remain relatively warm through Thursday afternoon, at which time a strong Arctic front will barrel into the Houston region and plunge temperatures well below freezing in the metro area. This will bring the region its coldest weather since February 2021, and calls for precautions for exposed pipes, tropical plants, and pets.

Wednesday

While we saw some sunshine on Tuesday, skies today will probably remain on the mostly cloudy side of things. This should limit high temperatures to the upper 50s. Winds will be light, out of the northeast. Lows tonight will only drop into the mid-40s as winds shift to come from the south and southeast. This will herald the beginning of a short-lived warming trend.

Thursday

Aside from the potential for some patchy fog, Thursday morning looks fine. Highs may briefly climb into the low 60s ahead of the front, which probably will push through Harris County between 2 and 4 pm ET. Some very light precipitation is possibly with the front, but it will not be enough to stick to roads, so inclement driving conditions are not anticipated. Temperatures will drop swiftly after the front’s passage, with freezing conditions likely north and west of Houston by sunset, and temperatures dropping into the upper 20s by 8 to 10 pm. Winds will be very gusty, out of the north at up to 35 mph. This will make for extremely unpleasant conditions outside Thursday night and Friday morning, when apparent temperatures drop into the single digits.

This is what I would characterize as a reasonable “worst case” scenario for low temperatures on Friday morning. (Weather Bell)

Friday

This will be the coldest morning of the year in Houston, Texas. But how cold? That’s the question. We’re confident in clear skies, which are ideal for radiational cooling. However, mixing from the gusty winds will complicate matters. That said, I think lows will bottom out from 15 to 20 degrees north of Interstate 10, from 17 to 23 degrees south of Interstate 10 in Harris and Fort Bend counties, and from 20 to 25 degrees in coastal counties, including Galveston. Friday will be sunny, with still very cold with a stiff northerly breeze. Highs likely will briefly climb above freezing during the daytime for most of the region, but we can expect another very cold night, with lows only 2 to 5 degrees warmer than Thursday night.

Saturday

Christmas Eve looks sunny, with high temperatures of around 40 degrees. It will be another cold night, however, with lows dropping into the mid-20s.

High temperatures on Christmas Day will be a good 15 to 20 degrees below normal. (Weather Bell)

Sunday

Christmas Day should be mostly sunny, with highs in the mid-40s. Dare I say that might feel almost balmy? OK, probably not. A light freeze is possible on Sunday night for areas away from the coast.

Next week

Monday will see an ongoing warming trend, but after that there is some question about whether a reinforcing cold front moves into the area. If it does, this could keep the region on the cooler side of things—nights in the 30s?—through about Wednesday. By the second half of next week I expect us to see highs in the 70s. A weak front may arrive ahead of New Year’s Eve, bringing some rain, but that’s at the edge of our ability to predict weather.

29 thoughts on “T-1 day until an Arctic freeze moves into the Houston area”

  1. I’m Mr. White Christmas
    I’m Mr. Snow.
    I’m Mr. Icicle
    I’m Mr. 10 below
    Friends call me Snow Miser
    Whatever I touch
    Turns to snow in my clutch!
    I’m too much

  2. We are driving to Fort Worth Friday morning. Do you anticipate that to be a problem? I haven’t heard anything about roads being dangerous.

  3. FWIW, even the minor precipitation forcasts of a few days ago have been revised downwards, so roads should be clear (but cold), and sunlight has a very positive effect on road surface traction.
    However, check tire pressures. General rule is that a change of 10 degrees F gives a 1 PSI change, so a 40 degree drop in ambient temps would drop your tire pressures by roughly 4 lbs.

  4. Regarding the grid, I just checked and both STNP reactors are up and running. In Feb ’21, Unit 1 tripped due to a cold-induced pressure sensor failure in a cooling water line. This was one of the key events in the grid failure.

  5. Airlines are already sending messages about possible disruption in travel. I have a flight Friday morning. Do we really think it’s getting to the point of canceling flights?

    • The problem won’t be that planes can’t get in or out of Houston. The issue is the larger storm conditions in other parts of the country that may prevent us from sending planes anywhere north, while simultaneously preventing planes from getting out of storm-affected places to come here to take people to wherever they were planning to go. It’s a domino effect. Imagine a car rental with 20 cars. Fifteen are out but five are supposed to be back by noon, so you book 10 rentals for the afternoon. Four still haven’t come back by noon and the one that did come back needs maintenance. Now you have ten people expecting cars, but only five in the lot. That’s how the airline industry is.

  6. “skies today will probably remain on the mostly cloudy side of things”

    Do you all own a window? LOL

    • Mostly cloudy doesn’t mean the sun can’t still shine through. The criteria is 3/4 to 7/8 coverage. At this current time KHOU and KIAH reporting either mostly cloudy or overcast/mist. As per usual, the forecast is for an area trend and not necessarily location specific.

  7. Would be nice if it gets above freezing for a couple of hours on Friday. ERCOT insists there will be enough electricity throughout; I hope they are right about that too.

  8. AS they are suffering the bite of bitter wind, I hope that the people who spend all year crying about the heat can finally, once and for all, admit that summer is way better than winter, and also, that winter kills way more people than summer.

    In the bleak midwinter, frosty wind made moan,
    Earth stood hard as iron, water like a stone;
    Snow had fallen, snow on snow, snow on snow,
    In the bleak midwinter, long ago.

    Our God, Heaven cannot hold Him, nor earth sustain;
    Heaven and earth shall flee away when He comes to reign.
    In the bleak midwinter a stable place sufficed
    The Lord God Almighty, Jesus Christ.

    –Christina Rossetti

  9. Hello Space City Houston Team. I hear from some people to run a trickle with both hot and cold water faucets. In the past I have run the trickle through just the cold water and it’s been fine. What are your thoughts on this? They are saying that this should not cause failure of the power grid but I don’t believe anything any of those ERCOT officials say. What is your opinion on this?
    Thank you for keeping your forecast fac based and not hype based.

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