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Weather
Update on Arctic Weather System
by Jim O'Donnel
Tuesday, February 01, 2011

This is an update on the Arctic weather system that has moved into Southeast Texas...

10:20 a.m. CST, Tuesday, February 1, 2011

 

...A Hard Freeze Warning is now in effect for all of Southeast Texas including Houston/Galveston and all preparations for a hard freeze tonight and Wednesday night should be completed as soon as possible...

 

...A Gale Warning is in effect along the upper Texas coast including Galveston Bay...

 

...A major winter storm will develop Thursday night and Friday bringing snow to the Houston and Galveston areas with highest accumulations in the coastal counties between the coast and Interstate-10...

 

I was off a little on my timing (by about 3 hours), but you have to admit the Arctic cold front really arrived in style this morning!  As the front reached Galveston Island, wind gusts of 40 to 50 mph were recorded.

 

Temperatures are plunging rapidly across all of Texas.  Earlier this morning, I saw drops of as much as 30 degrees in one hour at a few locations in the Texas Hill Country.  At 9:00 a.m., the temperatures across Texas ranged from a frigid 0 degrees at Dumas in the Texas Panhandle to a balmy 70 degrees at Brownsville where the front has not yet passed through.  Only in Texas, folks!!!

 

At 9:00 a.m., a large area of snow and sleet was falling across about the northern half of Texas.  Light snow is falling throughout the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex where the temperature is presently 19 degrees at the Dallas/Fort Worth Airport.  Snow is also reported in Wichita Falls, Abilene, Tyler, Breckenridge, Graham, Brady, Cleburne, Hamilton, McKinney, Amarillo and Odessa.  I have even seen a few reports of flurries as far south as Palestine and very near Austin where the current temperature is 29 degrees.

 

Now to the all important temperature forecast.  The Hard Freeze Warning has been extended to cover all of Southeast Texas and now includes Galveston Island.  All preparations to protect pipes, plants, pets and car radiators should be completed as soon as possible.  Temperatures are already below or near freezing at College Station, Caldwell, Brenham and Huntsville and no further warming is expected today.  The temperature is now in the low 40's across most of Houston and should drop to below freezing shortly after 6:00 p.m. tonight.  Galveston Island will see the thermometer drop to below freezing between 9:00 p.m. and midnight.  The duration of below freezing temperatures will range from 12 to over 24 hours depending on your location.

 

Lows tonight/Wednesday morning will range from 14 to 18 degrees at places like College Station, Huntsville, Conroe and Livingston...18 to 22 degrees in the western and northern suburbs of Houston...22 to 26 degrees across most of Houston and the inland areas of the coastal counties...and 26 to 30 degrees on Galveston Island.  Galveston Island may get by with just a light freeze sparing the water pipes.  But, right now, it's just too iffy to risk it.  So, I highly recommend preparing all exposed water pipes for a hard freeze just in case.

 

Wednesday will be another raw day with high temperatures remaining in the 30's.  Some areas may never rise above freezing all day especially the northern areas of Southeast Texas.

 

Expect low temperatures Wednesday night and Thursday morning to be equally as cold as the previous night.  The good news is that an increase in cloud cover may help keep the thermometer from falling even lower which is normally the case the second night after an Arctic frontal passage.

 

Now, for the really big news...the snow.  With the exception of a hurricane, nothing quite gets everyone's attention like snow in Southeast Texas.  With each computer model run, I am becoming more and more convinced that we are going to see a major winter storm develop across the coastal areas of Texas on Thursday night and Friday.  This system is going to be remarkably similar to the rare Christmas Eve 2004 snowstorm that dropped 4 inches of snow on Galveston Island and up to a foot in Lake Jackson and Angleton while only an inch or less fell in Houston.  Now, I'm not saying that it will snow that much this time.  It probably won't.  What I am saying is that the greatest potential for snow accumulation will be closer to the coast rather than the normally more "snow prone" inland areas.

 

So, how much will fall?  There is nothing more difficult to predict in this part of Texas...but I think 1 to 3 inches is a good possibility and I certainly won't be a bit surprised if 3 to 6 inch snowfall totals occur at a few locations.  Generally speaking, the best chance for accumulating snow will be from Houston southward to the coast...with lesser amounts further inland north of Houston.

 

Needless to say, this snow accumulation forecast is highly dependent on a number of factors including the precise location where a surface low pressure system develops in the Gulf of Mexico and the track of an upper level low pressure system across Texas.  It's always risky to predict something like this but I'm fairly confident from all of the data I've seen and the run to run model consistency of the past few days.

 

Incidentally, there may be a very brief period of sleet mixed in with the snow as it begins falling but evaporative cooling will quickly transform this into an all snow event.  As I mentioned yesterday, this particular weather pattern does not look to be conducive for freezing rain which creates a much worse travel nightmare producing a glaze of ice on the roadways.

 

All of the snow should end by Friday evening.  A slow warmup will begin this coming weekend.  That's about it, folks.  Hope everyone stays warm and dry!  Please drive safely!!!

 

Jim O'Donnel 




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