Some “COLD” Nuggets for You

Houston Back When
Houston Back When

Southeast Texas – I’m sure you’ve seen various “On This Day” entries regarding different historical moments and the Houston National Weather Service puts one out every day on their webpage. In fact, they have an entire calendar where you can click on each day yourself right here. It looks like this:

This Day in Weather History Chart

I clicked and logged every day from November through April to discover the “winter” events of note. After all, there has been a lot of talk lately about severe winter weather being rare around these parts. Hmmmmm, keep reading.

The years cover 1886 through 2020. Lots of folks have noted the big freezes of 2011, 1989, and 1983. But that’s just the beginning! For instance:

November 9, 1991: Temperatures fell to the 20s with 29° in Houston

November 28-30, 1976: An Arctic Blast brought 3″ of snow to Brenham while Houston fell to 28°, 27° and 25°

Dec 10, 2008: 1.5″ of snow and Dec 4, 2009: 1″ of snow and many remember Dec 24, 2004 when 6-12″ of snow fell from Victoria to Galveston.

January 3, 1911 Houston dropped to 16°, January 1947 we had a stretch of 5 days below freezing falling to 23°, and January 1978 we had 10 days in a row of below freezing temperatures!

Our coldest temperature on record is , both on January 17, 1930 and again January 23, 1940!

Most notably is the Ice Storm of January 29, 1951, a day which began 123 hours below freezing in Houston! Jan 29: 25° Jan 30: 24° Jan 31: 19° Feb 1: 15° Feb 2: 14° Feb 3: 19°

Speaking of February, Snow is easy to find in this month. The front picture is from the Valentine’s Day snow in 1895 that covered Houston with 20″ of snow and Galveston with 15″. Many of you will remember Feb 12, 1960: 4″ at Hobby and 11″ in Livingston. And 1973 brought 2-4″ of snow in January, another 1.4″ of snow in February, and was the same year for our latest freeze on record: April 10, 1973.

1973 snow from the Texas Archive, Thomas F. Freeman collection. The video can be seen here:

Take a look the video from 1973 right here.

March, too, has a lot of cold snaps, most recently 2002 when we had three days below freezing including a low of 22°. In 1980 we had a 3 day stretch, also. And March 22, 1968 is our latest snowfall on record when Hobby picked up 1″.

Here’s the Point

I looked at all the years from 1886 to 2021 which had notable, memorable winter weather and there are probably a few others not on the NWS chart, so keep that in mind. The longest gap when there was no interesting winter weather fell from 1914 to 1922, an 8 year stretch. Generally, we had some dangerous winter event occur every 2-3 years. In fact, out of 135 years, 50 of those winters scored with either extreme cold, measurable icing, or snow (sometimes all of it). That’s 37% odds. And if you look at this century alone, I count 11 years--half the time!

So if someone tells you that southeast Texas “just doesn’t really get winter weather” send them to the historical record. That’ll show ‘em.

Have a safe weekend and continued prayers for those storm victims from last week.


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About the Author:

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