The cold that was

Feb. 15, 2021 from Click2Pins. Jose Alvarado shot this pic with his drone

Today, this Wednesday, marks the one year anniversary of that Wednesday before that weekend. Wednesday, Feb. 10, I canceled my planned trip to Ft. Lauderdale.

Kevin and I were going to fly out Friday and stay over Valentine’s Day, but on that Wednesday the first of two cold fronts moved through bringing a drop in temperatures and wintry conditions to our northern counties. Clearly, Southeast Texas wouldn’t escape the arctic beast lumbering toward the state. A winter storm watch was soon raised for Sunday, Feb. 14, and we all prepared for the big freeze (having no real idea just how “powerless” we would be). We went on high alert.

I headed to the station with blow up mattress, clothes and supplies to last a couple of days. Who knew how long we’d be in this mess? The bigger arctic front moved across Sunday with snow, sleet, and freezing rain. And power outages. Thanks to a huge generator, KPRC was on the air constantly, which is a big blur but I remember not sleeping much, and that Monday morning whoever did sleep woke up to a snow-covered Texas. One to three inches of snow averaged across Southeast Texas with more to the northern counties and a bit less toward the coast. The pictures tell that part of the story.

from Click2pins on 2/15/2021
Enough snow to make an Art Car! from click2pins 2/15/2021

Even to the coast....

from click2pins 2/15/2021

And while little snowmen appeared and the kids wailed with excitement, the power wasn’t coming back on. And the temperatures dropped even more. Tuesday morning, Feb. 16, Bush/IAH fell to 13 degrees with wind chills plunging the “Feels Like” temperature to 0. We were all in the freezer:

From 1 to 20, the bitter temperatures would set in all week

Officially, Houston spent 44 hours below freezing. Some folks much more. Eventually, we would get some relief with high temperatures breaking above the 32-degree mark, but most of us felt those freezing mornings for at least a week, if not longer. Note in the graphic below that those are not temperatures, but are how many days we fell below freezing every night.

Note these are not temperatures, these are the number of days we fell to 32 or below during that arctic outbreak

As so common around here, our low temperatures were quite mild the weeks before and after the arctic outbreak. Meteorologist Caroline Brown put together this calendar below highlighting our unforgettable frigid week:

February 2021 low temps ranged from 13 to 70!

The other part of the story

Sadly, we know the toll taken on our neighbors and other Texans across the state. Our nation went through a $200 BILLION winter storm which claimed the lives of almost a thousand people, the majority in Texas. From a meteorological point of view, this arctic outbreak was “generational”--something we see every 30 years -- and the National Weather Service Houston has a full report right here with all the maps, data and pictures you could want. I encourage you take a look.

Folks, we live in Southeast Texas, where we somehow get through all the weather there is: arctic blasts, hurricane fury, twisting tornadoes, flooding deluges, dreaded droughts, whipping winds, terrifying thunderstorms and fog so thick you could cut it with a Bowie knife. We also have gentle rains that keep us blooming all year long, refreshing “football fronts” in fall, stellar winter afternoons and spring skies of azure blue. I honestly can’t think of a type of weather we haven’t seen and survived around here.

Enjoy this week because the days like we had a year ago can come again. Not to worry, we’ll cross that bridge when we get to it:

Druti Shah on a snow-covered bridge in Sugar Land February 15, 2021. From click2pins

By the way, I would have much rather been here with you than on a beach in Ft. Lauderdale during all that winter mess. Seriously.


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About the Authors:

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