Remember when it got really cold?

This photo is from Wade3rd on Click2pins

As we head into a record warm Christmas weekend and continue that trend into next week, no one has forgotten February’s Big Freeze. I get asked all the time if that will happen again (we’ll talk about that in a moment).

We actually reached 80° in early February, but arctic air began surging toward Texas on February 10 and would arrive just in time for Valentine’s Day, Sunday. Here is the synoptic pattern for that time and I’ve highlighted the big dome of High Pressure and northerly wind flow that shunted the freezing air our way.

courtesy Weather Prediction Center

At the same time, 1-3″ of snow moved across the state. Here’s the National Weather Service Houston Radar:

courtesy National Weather Service Houston

While those snow amounts weren’t enough to topple tree branches or power lines, we certainly had our share of slushy memories:

Image on click2pins from KPRC2Dawn
Image on click2pins from Marla Gentry
Image on click2pins from Elaine Fuentes

You can see plenty of memories from that week on Click2pins, just search “snow/ice.”

The High pressure system really took over by February 16, that Tuesday, bringing clearing skies and extreme cold.

courtesy Weather Prediction Center

We were below freezing in Houston 44 hours straight, in Galveston 37 hours and in College Station 86 hours! The usual recording stations fell to 15° (Hobby), 13° (BUSH/IAH), 5° (College Station) and 20° (Galveston). I researched some of the other lows recorded around southeast Texas:

Source: National Weather Service Houston

The full list of those chilly numbers can be found here at the NWS Houston report on the freeze. We didn’t start to get a break until the High moved east and changed the northerly winds to east and southeast:

courtesy Weather Prediction Center

How Bad Was It?

We all remember the power outages and the ‘near miss’ of being in the dark for weeks, if not months. That’s the news side of the story. In terms of dollars and lives lost, the event was costlier than Hurricane Harvey. This storm took at least 210 lives and possibly as many as 702 with an estimated $195 billion damage while Hurricane Harvey cost $125 billion and left 68 dead (Wikipedia). As for the disasters this year across the nation, take a look at the map below (which does not include the Kentucky tornadoes). Four out of 18 are in Texas!

Courtesy NOAA

Another Freeze?

Let’s face it -- these extreme weather events are occurring more and more. Is another big Arctic outbreak possible? Of course it is, but it’s not likely. The dire cold we experienced in February was ‘generational’, something we see about every thirty years, but exceptions always seem to pop up. We are certainly on a roll with a warm winter season and the forecasts continue to keep our temperatures above average the next three months. That, however, will lead to an early spring storm and tropical season.

Have a very happy holiday as we head into this weekend. I’m looking at a new home weather station under the tree so I’m already a happy camper!!

Merry Merry,

Frank


About the Author:

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