Yes, the Arctic Blast is real, and it could be a real mess

Our confidence in the forecast for an upcoming outbreak of cold weather, in terms of timing and intensity, is increasing although many questions remain. We think the worst conditions should come next Monday and Tuesday, when there’s a healthy chance of wintry precipitation and a widespread, hard freeze.

Sunrise temperatures in Houston on Wednesday depend on which side of the front you sit. (Weather Bell)

Wednesday

At present, a thin layer of colder air at the surface has pushed into northern parts of the metro area. As a result, temperatures this morning are in the low 50s in parts of Montgomery County, while much of Houston and coastal areas are about 10 degrees warmer. Because of this more moist airmass near the coast, fairly dense sea fog has developed and will persist for a couple of hours after sunrise. After the fog lifts, skies will be mostly cloudy for the remainder of the day, with about a 30 to 40 percent chance of scattered showers. Highs will depend upon which side of the cold front you lie, but generally, temperatures should be in the 60s today, and 50s tonight in Houston. Scattered light rain chances will persist tonight.

Thursday and Friday

The front should more completely push through the Houston area on Thursday morning, by or before sunrise, and move off the coast. This is the beginning of a big change in Houston weather, and it will start with healthy rain chances for much of Thursday, Thursday night, and Friday morning. Most models are trending wetter, and at this point it would not surprise me to see 1 to 2 inches during the period, with higher isolated totals. Highs Thursday will be in the 50s, lows Thursday night generally in the 40s, and highs in the upper 40s on Friday with mostly cloudy skies after the rains end.

NOAA rainfall forecast for now through Friday. (Weather Bell)

Saturday

Well, it’s not much, but Saturday looks to be the “pick” of the weekend, with partly sunny skies and high temperatures that may reach about 50 degrees. A reinforcing shot of colder air should arrive on Saturday, setting the stage for near freezing temperatures in Houston during the overnight hours.

Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday

This is the period of the forecast where we expect the coldest weather to occur, and a potential for sleet, freezing rain, or possibly snow. There are, frankly, a lot of atmospheric ingredients at play including the amount of cold air moving into the region, and the evolution of an upper level low pressure system that should bring precipitation into the forecast.

For now, Sunday looks partly to mostly sunny and cold, with highs perhaps in the low 40s or thereabouts. Sunday night will likely see a widespread freeze across Houston, with increasing precipitation chances overnight.

Monday should see the best chance of precipitation. But what form will it take? For areas north of Houston and west of Katy, high temperatures on Monday may struggle to get out of the low 30s. So there’s going to be a rather healthy chance of sleet, freezing rain, or possibly snow. I expect this may well be the case in Houston as well, we just don’t have extremely high confidence in temperatures at this point. Bottom line: Monday has the potential to be a real mess on the roads, and school closures are possible if your district isn’t already shut due to President’s Day. Obviously we’ll be tracking all of this for you in the coming days as best we can.

National Weather Service forecast for lows Tuesday morning. (Weather Bell)

Finally, Tuesday looks to see the coldest weather. With the potential for some clearing skies on Monday night and early Tuesday, we could see temperatures plunge on Tuesday morning. I’m not ruling out temperatures in the teens for outlying areas, and potentially even in Houston itself. More likely lows will be in the 20s, and that will be cold enough to worry about exposed pipes. My best guess for Houston right now is a low between 20 and 25 degrees, with colder conditions inland, and still a freeze right along the coast.

Temperatures should begin to recover by Wednesday.

29 thoughts on “Yes, the Arctic Blast is real, and it could be a real mess”

    • Wrap it with Christmas lights (not LED) for warmth. Just the mini bulbs give off a decent amount of heat.

      • Also those rope lights (non LED) generate a lot of heat. And they’re pretty cheap and available year round. We used em in sand to warm the soil in our greenhouse.

    • Mark Atwood, not knowing your location in the Houston metro area uncertain if my advice will apply; I’m in Clear Lake area. I’ll harvest my green papayas, water well, and cut the tree low enough so my 55 gallon trash barrel fits over it then cover with my old sheets. Hope you can salvage yours! Fresh papaya and lime for breakfast is the best.

      • We are going out of town for the long weekend and have a flight scheduled to return Monday afternoon. Is there a chance we might be delayed coming in due to the weather?

      • I’m going to cover mine until the actual hard freeze comes then bring them in after that. And hope for the best for my fig trees.

  1. I have a huge grapefruit tree and two smaller fruit trees. I’m actually doubting they will survive these freezes. 😢

    • Azael, same here. My Meyer Lemon tree had some damage the last time temps were in the mid-20s, but it recovered. Now, I fear for it, and for my own huge grapefruit tree.

    • Do you have any strings of incandescent Christmas lights? A wrap with these can help provide some heat for them, along with some insulating material at the base.

      • I feel your pain….. I have a peach tree that has already put out buds and some very tiny peaches…. looks like we won’t get peaches this year! 🙁

        • same! I saw my little tiny peaches the other day and got so excited. I’m going to try and keep it warm and hope real hard!

    • Some grapefruit varieties are hardy to the 20s or even teens (bloom sweet). If grafted wrap the graft. Also put buckets of water around the trunk and wrap the lower part or the entire tree for the smaller ones. Freezing water gives off heat in an exothermic change of state.

  2. Once we get through this freeze, what are the chances of another one coming for the rest of Feb and March? I know we can’t rule it out but when can we confidently say that winter is behind us?

  3. FYI…..as stated in first post, put Christmas lights on your citrus trees. The old fashion c9 bulb type is best, then throw a sheet or specified plant cover over that. DO NOT use plastic or a tarp. Make sure everything is well watered.

    • FYI you CAN use plastic coverings as long as the plant is well wrapped in fabric first. Plastic must never directly touch the leaves.

      I am putting cardboard boxes around the base of my most sensitive plants (two key limes and two guavas), filling them with fallen leaves, and then cloth and plastic sheeting over all of it. Then put chemical hand warmer packets as close to the graft union as possible.

  4. You might want to add a splash of alcohol to your vehicle’s washer fluid and squirt it a few times. The plastic lines/sprayers can be a bit fragile.

  5. Of course we have half a dozen goats looking a few days away from kidding. Might have to turn the dairy into a goat maternity ward!

  6. Yuck. I grew up in Wisconsin. I complained regularly and hated it then, and after living in Texas for 13 years, I hate it more.

  7. Thank you Eric and Matt for all you do. I am planning on working on my tan on Tuesday. What SPF should I use?

  8. On the bright side, maybe someone will put a hockey team in Houston after seeing this. Yes, yes, Houston is a COLD weather city after all…..

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