There are several ways to define the beginning of winter—the onset of cold weather, Dec. 1, or the winter solstice. The latter is today, and because we’re only now publishing our winter forecast for Texas, for the purposes of this post we choose to define winter this year as the period from Dec. 21 through March 20, the spring equinox. Anyway, we’re expecting slightly cooler, and wetter conditions.
After a cold November—remember the early freeze and trace of snow?—conditions so far this December have been fairly standard for Houston. Temperatures have been near normal, and there’s yet to be a freeze. The next week or so should be fairly warm for this time of year, with highs generally in the low 70s, before a cooldown to end the year.
The dominant factor for our weather in January, February, and early March should be the arrival of El Niño, warmer sea surface temperatures in the tropical Pacific Ocean that have effects downstream. Generally, this tends to make temperatures a bit cooler in Texas, and wetter, with a more active storm pattern over the southern United States. The official NOAA forecast, just released Thursday, shows near-normal temperatures for Texas for the January through March period.
This is probably accurate, although we expect to see a couple of rather strong fronts during the coming months, with the coldest period most likely coming during the first half of February. The bottom line is that although the last 10 days of December may be fairly warm, we do not expect this trend to continue through the winter.
Due to the more southerly storm track, we expect to see periodic bursts of rain as cold fronts move through the area, along with thunderstorms. A typical amount of monthly rainfall during the winter is 3 to 3.5 inches of rain, but this winter we probably will see amounts closer to 4 or 5 inches. We have no reasons to be concerned about flood conditions right now, but we will have to watch the stronger fronts as they approach and ultimately move through the area.
We’ll get a taste of this next week, when the next moderately strong front moves through later on Wednesday or Thursday, and brings perhaps 1 to 2 inches of rainfall, if not more, as it slogs through.
Winters can be unpredictable in Texas and it’s easy to forget about the chilly days when they’re followed by warm ones. This can have a significant impact on your energy bill, but there are several ways to get winter ready with these tips from Reliant:
- Reliant customers can request a free home energy checkup to get a snapshot of your home’s electricity usage, ensure equipment is working properly and identify energy-efficiency tips customized to your home.
- If you notice that the temperature doesn’t seem to be changing an hour or more after you’ve adjusted it cooler or warmer, then consider calling a service technician or expert to check it out. A unit that is running constantly and not reaching the correct temperature can break the budget.
- The Reliant App can help you keep track of your energy usage. If you sign up for Account Alerts, the app can notify you when your costs exceed a certain amount or when your daily usage spikes by 25 percent.
- Homes using all electric heating and cooling can have the highest bills of the year in the winter, not summer. If your home is heated with electricity, expect heating usage to be as much as 65 percent of your bill. Plus, electric water heaters and pools can be sneaky consumers of energy and could cause your bill to be higher than expected.
- Enrolling in average monthly billing can help you manage your budget by evening out seasonal changes across the year and avoiding spikes in bills.
- Check out more tips on getting your home winter ready at reliant.com/wintertips.