5:35 AM CST Sunday, December 9, 2007
...A strange weather pattern is developing in Southeast Texas as an Arctic cold front has unexpectedly drifted further southward into Texas than was previously anticipated...
For the past several days, the Jamaica Beach Weather Observatory has been following the progress of an Arctic cold front drifting southward through the nation's mid-section. Normally, large domes of high pressure send Arctic cold fronts barreling rapidly south through Texas and it is not uncommon for one to clear the entire state in a day or two. However, in this case, most of the operational forecast models had indicated this cold front would remain well north of our area until the middle part of next week.
However, the Arctic cold front began sinking (oozing might be a better description) unexpectedly further south yesterday and overnight and has now made it all the way into Central Texas well ahead of its projected arrival. At one point yesterday, the front sat nearly stationary for several hours halfway between Fort Worth and Dallas. While Dallas was basking in near record warmth with a high temperature of 79º...only 30 miles to the west, Fort Worth residents were shivering with temperatures only in the 50's...a strange situation that lasted throughout much of Saturday afternoon.
At 4:00 AM CST Sunday morning, the Arctic cold front extended from the Red River near Paris southward to Sulphur Springs to just north of Corsicana to Gatesville to Brady to north of Junction to Fort Stockton and northward from there into New Mexico.
There is a sharp contrast in temperatures on either side of the cold front. South of the front, temperatures are mostly in the 60's and 70's with the warmest temperature in the state being 75º at McAllen, Weslaco and Edinburg all in the Lower Rio Grande Valley. Meanwhile, behind the cold front temperatures fall quickly into the 40's and even into the 20's and 30's in portions of North Texas, West Texas and the Texas Panhandle. The coldest reading in the state at 4:00 AM was in the panhandle town of Perryton with a frigid 19º. Warm, moist air is overriding the shallow Arctic air mass at the surface and this has caused light wintry precipitation to develop. Freezing rain causing ice accumulations is now occurring at Childress and Lubbock while light snow is falling in Abilene where the temperature has plummeted to 38º.
Even more significant ice accumulations are occurring further north in Oklahoma and an Ice Storm Warning has now been issued for the Oklahoma City metropolitan area where up to ½" of ice could accumulate on roads, trees and power lines. Persons planning any highway or air travel into Oklahoma today or tonight are strongly advised to check road conditions before setting out or check with your airline.
A Winter Storm Watch has also been issued for much of West Texas...portions of North Texas and the Texas Panhandle for a combination of freezing rain, sleet and snow producing mainly ice accumulations of ¼ to ½ of an inch and some snow accumulations of around an inch or so in a few locations.
The $64,000 question is how much further south will the Arctic front make it today? This is an extremely difficult situation to get a handle on and may have to be revised several times before all is said and done. It appears plausible that the front could at least make it through the northern third of Southeast Texas by this evening so places like Bryan/College Station, Madisonville, Huntsville and Crockett will likely have a perceptible drop in temperature into the 50's and 60's later this evening or tonight. The vast majority of Southeast Texas will remain very warm again today with near record high temperatures in the mid to upper 70's. It is possible the front could make it even further south than what is indicated here to places such as Columbus, Conroe and Livingston but it remains highly doubtful it will reach the Houston/Galveston area.
A more likely scenario is that the cold front will stall out just north of the local area for several days until a reinforcing dome of high pressure kicks it southward again next week. However, by then, the air mass will have modified enough so that we would still get some cooler weather...although not the very cold readings we would normally expect from an Arctic air mass.
Record high temperatures for the date were tied or broken on Saturday at Houston's Bush Intercontinental Airport (83º broke their daily record of 82º in 1994)...Galveston's Scholes International Airport (77º tied their daily record of 77º in 1894)...and at the Jamaica Beach Weather Observatory (76º broke the daily record of 72º in 1999 and in previous years). Unless the cold front unexpectedly moves through, all three of these locations will have highs again today in the mid to upper 70's.
Jamaica Beach Weather Observatory