Today will be one of the strangest weather days of your life

Good morning, y’all. As the title said, today is a weather day you may remember for a long time. I can point to half a dozen vivid weather memories in Houston that are as plain as day for me—late-night flooding during Harvey, Allison, and Imelda; winds and tornadoes during Ike; drought during the summer of 2011; and the extreme cold, snow, and ice of February 2021. Today we will be making some new memories I think.

As I look out the window of my home office this morning I see fog, as dewpoints and temperatures have both settled in the mid-40s this morning. After a mild start, we’re going to see temperatures climb to nearly 60 degrees. Then, this afternoon, one of strongest cold fronts I’ve observed in my lifetime is going to whip into Houston. This will, in very short order, drop air temperatures by 30 degrees. When you factor in strong winds, it will feel about 60 degrees colder tonight if you step outside. Not that I would recommend it.

NAM model forecast for the front’s position at 1 pm CT on Thursday. The difference in temperatures is stark. (Weather Bell)

I also want to say a word about forecasting. There are some things we still can’t do very well at Space City Weather. For example, if there’s a 50 percent chance of rain on any given day, I can’t absolutely tell you whether (or not) it will rain at your house. But in terms of large pressure patterns, that span thousands of miles across the globe, our best forecast models are starting to get pretty good. Don’t believe me? Here’s what I wrote ten days ago about the weather for today, December 22.

There is a fairly strong signal in the models for an even deeper burst of colder air toward the middle or latter half of next week. This could push overnight temperatures below freezing—perhaps even into the 20s—by around December 22 or so. This really is at the edge of our reliable forecasting capability, so it remains speculative. But my sense is that the days leading up to Christmas are going to be quite cold, and possibly the holiday itself. How cold? I’d love to be able to tell you that, but I can’t. However, I do think we’re looking at lows probably between 25 and 40 degrees, so you can expect Jack Frost to be nipping at your nose.

Space City Weather, Dec. 12, 2022

I’m not going to take credit for that, but I will say that part of good forecasting is understanding when you should lend credence to weather models, and when to consider something as chaff. That is some of the value we try to bring to you, helping to understand what is real about upcoming weather, and what is fluff. The cold tonight, by the way, is very real.

Thursday

As mentioned, we’re seeing some fog this morning, but that should dissipate with sunrise or shortly thereafter. The only real change in our ongoing forecast for the front is that its timing has sped up a little bit. If you’re living in College Station I’d expect its passage by around Noon, and for it to push into the Houston metro area between 1 to 3 pm, and reach the coast by around 5 pm CT. I can’t rule out any precipitation with 100 percent certainty, but anything that falls will be light, and may not make it all the way to the ground.

The immediate changes with the front will be sustained north-northwesterly winds at about 25 mph, with gusts up to 35 to 40 mph. By around sunset most of the metro area will already be experiencing freezing temperatures, with air temperatures dropping into the 20s by this evening. If you’re out and about after 9 or 10 pm, be prepared for apparent temperatures in the single digits. To the extent we have electricity concerns, at this moment our largest worry is brief outages due to strong winds affecting poles and lines. Otherwise, we expect the Texas power grid to be able to accommodate demand over the next few days.

A reasonable worst case scenario for low temperatures in Houston on Friday morning. (Weather Bell)

Friday

How low will temperatures go on Friday morning? Some of this will depend on the extent of winds and mixing overnight, but it’s a safe bet to expect lows in the 15 to 20 degree range for areas inland of Interstate 10, including locations north and west of Houston. The city itself will likely see lows between 17 and 22 degrees, with coastal areas between 20 and 25 degrees.

Friday will be sunny, with continued gusty northerly winds, and high temperatures briefly nearing or reaching the freezing level. Lows will drop again on Friday night into the low 20s for much of the area, with local temperatures perhaps 2 to 5 degrees warmer than Thursday night.

Saturday

Christmas Eve should see highs near 40 degrees, with sunny skies. Overnight lows will drop into the mid-20s.

Christmas Day

Another sunny day, likely with highs in the mid-40s. A light freeze is possible on Christmas night.

Next week

There remains some uncertainty about the early part of next week, and an additional front possibly moving through. But it seems that we’ll be solidly into a warming trend by Wednesday, with highs bound for the 70s. It looks like rain chances may start to increase toward the end of next week, and we may be looking at a slightly wet period heading into New Year’s Eve. But for now the details on that are just too fuzzy.

Next update

We’ll have our next update for you this evening, after the front’s passage, to refresh our expectations for overnight low temperatures.

40 thoughts on “Today will be one of the strangest weather days of your life”

  1. You guys are invaluable to survival in Houston. From heat emergencies and floods to now two years of historic cold, you keep us educated and prepared so we all make it through safely.
    Thank you.
    Again.

  2. Amazing forecasting Eric. Any chance you can forecast areas that will lose power?

    Long time reader, first time commenter.

    • The pressure on the energy production system is going to be extreme though. Take a look at Eric’s graph from 3 days ago, this onset of freezing weather is really similar to what happened in February of 21.

  3. If I plan to drain my water lines today, when would you think would be the best and safest time to open them back up?

  4. I am flying home from Oslo, Norway tomorrow and it will be colder when I arrive than when I left. Crazy!

    Thanks for keeping us informed – I was able to get much of my winterization done before I left on the 16th thanks to your long term forecast!

  5. Thank you for your calm and nuanced reports. I always feel ready or at least forewarned about all the weather here in Houston. A Merry Christmas to all at SCW!!

  6. As a native Houstonian I appreciate what this site does. Much better than the hyped forecast on local TV.

  7. Ditto on the chorus of thanks to Eric, Matt, Maria, and Lee. After experiencing the calm collected forecasts here on SCW, why bother watching any local TV weather?

    Heck, I go the extra mile and skip all local news. My sock drawer always could use rearranging with that time.

  8. I love Space City Weather!! Thank you for always being on point and some added humor from time to time. I read your posts every time I receive them. Have a very Merry Christmas!

  9. Thank you SCW! What would we do without you 🥹. I plan on dripping multiple faucets (really a slight stream) but I keep seeing that people will be shutting off their water altogether. I’ve heard this could also be risky once you turn the water back. Risky for both so I’m not sure what to do. Like Larry David in that gif.

  10. It seems like the extreme cold snaps have increased in frequency and severity this decade versus the late 90s and earlier 2000s. Does the data show that or is it just my impression?

    • That’s accurate. If you look at the IAH climate website, you can see weather dating back to 2000. The graphs are really easy to interpret and basically it got cold once in 2002, then not again until 2011. Since 2011, we get a good cold snap about every 2-3 years give or take.

  11. I’m actually looking forward to the colder weather, that’s what coats are for. And yes, I will be venturing out this evening and enjoying the change.

  12. Thank you so much for all your hard work. I truly appreciate your forecasts. I actually read parts of them to my coworkers and others. Some do not realize how crazy the weather can be here.

  13. Thank you for the clarity. The timing of this isn’t ideal (when is it ever) but I so appreciate your measured candor. Happy holidays. Be safe, all.

  14. I moved here to Houston just over a year ago. I was here for Uri. That was weird, a total panic for 2-3 days. I grew up in ice storms in Louisiana and dealt with hail and Tornados in Oklahoma where I went to college. I think as Texans yall need to toughen up – this city life has made every one a little soft (outside of honking your horn in traffic – y’all sure are brave behind the wheel) Y’all need to build better homes – Fact. It’s going to get cold for a day or two… that’s winter, right? 70’s by next week… C’mon. I champion this site for the weather forecast, I don’t watch local anymore, and I am big fan of Frank Billingsly. It’s going to be fine everyone. STOP THE PANIC. To quote Nicolas Cage in The Weatherman “It’s just air – it moves around everywhere!” Hashtag Happy Holidays and hashtag Stop the Madness!

    • Spoken like someone who has no idea wtf they’re talking about. But welcome to Houston, son. You’ll learn.

      • Thanks for reading, Frank. Lay off the horn when you merge next time in your Chevy, or Dodge, or whatever it is you commandear as a vehicle.

    • Oh please. I’m a native and if I have to listen to people complain about 70 degree heat waves in the summer when I’m accustomed to 110 heat index, you can listen to us complain about weather we’re not accustomed to. You’re not so tough yourself if you’re whinging about it here.

  15. I grew up in the upper Midwest, so we’d experience strong fronts like this a few times every fall/winter/spring. Certainly not one of the strangest weather days of my life.

  16. Thanks for your opinion, David…tend to agree with some of them – Billingsly though? Seriously? Herzog & Tillman on 13 if you have to watch the local stations. Hope you hang out long enough to experience the next major flood & get to experience 1st hand how “soft” Houstonians are. We’re doing just fine…

    • I knew as soon as I posted I was gonna catch some heat. I went through Andrew in 92. My sincere apologies, I never went through what any of you did duiring Harvey. Wrong way to go about it on my part, but we will be okay these next few days. All the best everyone.

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