What to know about our coming cold snap

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Can you imagine what Houstonians must have thought on Valentine’s Day 1895, waking up to 20 inches of snow? In Galveston, they had 16 inches dumped on them!

Never underestimate February!

Never underestimate February in Houston, and if you’ve been looking at the models for the weekend ahead, you’ve seen some drastic differences in temperature forecasts.

Right now, the NWS has us in the 30s/40s for lows this weekend. Cold, but certainly manageable. If you follow the European, it supports that forecast:

A Light Freeze Sunday Morning

This model came out this morning (we’ll get an update about 3 p.m. this afternoon) and the coldest it gets is a light freeze Sunday morning.

On the other hand, the newest American model is almost frightening with its forecast, bringing us extreme cold this weekend:

Very Cold American Model

Yes, those are single digits you are seeing by Sunday!

So what to believe?

I like watching models run to run, taking a look at how they are performing so far. I’ll say this, last Sunday (Jan. 31) the American model was predicting 21° for THIS MORNING. Clearly, that was out to lunch. So I’m not buying into this crazy cold forecast just yet. I’m watching it though.

Part of the difficulty is that we’ll have a strong flow in the upper levels (18000 feet) right out of the southwest and that is a warm flow. So this very thin surface layer of extreme cold will be fighting a mixing of warmer air coming down from above:

500mb southwest flow this weekend

Whether the really cold air suggested by the American model wins out is honestly too early to tell, but historically this year, the European has done better with temperatures. Like with any extreme weather event, have a plan in place just in case Old Man Winter decides to send us a Valentine’s Day gift we didn’t ask for!


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About the Author:

KPRC 2's chief meteorologist with three decades of experience forecasting Houston's weather.