From the Annals of the Blue Northers – In 1899, the coldest temperature ever recorded in Texas occurred in Tulia. Thermometers recorded a temperature of minus 23 degrees Fahrenheit. The frigid air was part of the “Big Freeze” (a/k/a the Great Blizzard of 1899) perhaps the most famous blue norther ever to reach the state. Record lows that still stand today were recorded across much of the eastern U.S. including the only subzero temperature ever recorded in Florida. In Texas, the blizzard killed thousands of head of livestock and damaged crops.
From the Annals of the Blue Norther – In 1899, the coldest temperature ever recorded in Texas occurred in Tulia – south of Amarillo. The town recorded a record minus 23 degrees Fahrenheit. This was part of the “Big Freeze,” an infamous norther that killed 40,000 cattle across the state overnight. This temperature was matched in Seminole in 1933. Many other Texas cities set all time records or came very close.
- Amarillo: −16 °F (−26.7 °C) all-time record
- Austin: −1 °F (−18.3 °C) second-lowest ever
- Brenham: 0 °F (−17.8 °C) all-time record for February
- Brownsville: 12 °F (−11.1 °C) all-time record
- College Station: 1 °F (−17.2 °C) all-time record for February
- Conroe: 6 °F (−14.4 °C) tied for all-time record for February
- Corpus Christi: 11 °F (−11.7 °C) all-time record
- Dallas & Fort Worth: −8 °F (−22.2 °C) all-time record
- Danevang: 3 °F (−16.1 °C) all-time record
- Galveston: 8 °F (−13.3 °C) all-time record
- Houston: 6 °F (−14.4 °C) second-lowest ever
- Marshall: −9 °F (−22.8 °C) all-time record
- San Antonio: 4 °F (−15.6 °C) second-lowest ever
Red is familiar with freezing rain and sleet. But had never seen “ice pellets” in the forecast until yesterday. With Winter Storm Inga upon us, Red figured he had better check it out. Turns out that ice pellets is just another name for sleet.
Ice pellets are a form of precipitation. They are small, translucent or clear balls of ice. Ice pellets are rain drops that have frozen before they hit the ground. When they hit the ground, they bounce. Ice pellets are also called sleet and can be accompanied by freezing rain.
Thanks to the Weather Guys in Wisconsin who know way more about such matters than warm weather Red.
From the Annals of the Blue Northers – In 1988, the Schoolhouse Blizzard roared through Texas after blanketing the Dakotas, Montana, Minnesota, Nebraska, Kansas and Oklahoma.
The blizzard resulted from the collision of a massive Artic cold front with warm humid air from the Gulf of Mexico. The rapid temperature drop of almost 40 degrees in some places caused high winds and heavy snow. The speeding storm struck Montana in the early hours of January 12, moved on to the Dakota Territory and reached Nebraska by mid-afternoon.
The storm caused an estimated 235 deaths. The storm hit during mid-day and had been preceded by a short period of warmer weather. The strong winds and powdery snow caused a white-out on the open plains. The thousands of people who were caught unawares outside were in immediate danger. The blizzard’s name came from the fact that most teachers wisely kept children safely in their schoolrooms.
The Austin American-Statesman reports that August has been exactly as wet as Red thought it was – that would be very wet.
Persistent rain in Texas has made August 2016 the wettest August in more than a century and equal to the rainiest August ever.
Preliminary figures from the State Climatologist office at Texas A&M University show Texas received an average 5.69 inches of rain statewide. That’s the same amount measured in 1914, the present record holder for the month based on records that go back to 1895.
State Climatologist John Nielsen-Gammon credits the rainfall to an atmospheric wind pattern that pumped lots of deep, moist tropical air into Texas, with heaviest rainfall mainly in east, central and southeast parts of the state. He says it could stay wet for the next couple of months, since September and October historically are the wettest months of the year in Texas.
From the Annals of the Big Storms – In 2005, Hurricane Katrina made landfall as a category 3 hurricane. The storm’s direct impact was directed most famously at New Orleans, but much of the Gulf Coast from Louisiana to the Florida Panhandle was effected. The storm killed more than 1,800 and caused over $115 billion in damage. The indirect impact on Texas was the outmigration of people from Louisiana many of whom have stayed in Houston and other cities. The devastation wrought by Katrina was also instrumental in triggering the mass evacuation from the Houston area in advance of Hurricane Rita which resulted in several deaths.
My pillow’s soaking wet.” Freddy Fender, The Rains Came.
And for some excellent Texas flood porn, check out the Weather Channel’s self-titled Photos of the Worst Flooding Parts of Texas Have Seen.
Photo from the Weather Channel (Michael Ciaglo/Houston Chronicle via AP)
A picture . . . as they say.
From the Annals of the Twisters – In 1953, a massive tornado killed 114 people in Waco. The tornado was the strongest (F5 on the Fujita scale) and deadliest of a series of at least 33 tornados that struck central Texas over a three day period. The tornado’s winds reached speeds of 300 mph and destroyed or damaged over 600 houses, 1000 other buildings and 2000 vehicles. In addition to those killed another 597 were injured.
According to an old Huaco Native American legend, tornadoes could not touch down in Waco. There was some truth to the legend as most storms in the area travel from west to east and split around the Waco area due to the bluffs around the Brazos River, making tornadoes relatively rare in the city. The 1953 storm, however, traveled against the prevailing winds, and the tornado approached Waco from the North-Northeast.
Over half the victims were killed in a single city block bounded by 4th and 5th streets and Austin and Franklin avenues. Due to a heavy thunderstorm, many people were seeking shelter in downtown buildings. One such building was the five-story Dennis Building which was directly in the path of the twister. The building was practically destroyed in seconds when the tornado struck leaving dozens of people trapped beneath its ruins. Twenty-two people died in the Dennis Building alone.
Before and after photo from http://www.ustornados.com
From the Annals of Panic – In 2005, Houston and the surrounding area was gripped in the midst of the worst traffic jam in the City’s history. All freeways heading out of the City were turned into massive parking lots as residents fled from the oncoming Hurricane Rita. The storm coming quick on the heels of devastating Hurricane Katrina threw officials and residents into panic mode resulting in the largest peacetime evacuation in U.S. history. And it was mostly for naught – in Houston at least – as the storm veered eastward and came ashore south of Beaumont. Sadly, the mishandled flight from the City killed almost as many people as Rita did. More than 100 evacuees died in the exodus. Drivers waited in traffic for 20-plus hours, and heat stroke impaired or killed dozens while 24 senior citizens were killed in a bus fire. The evacuation exposed horrific flaws in the system and was largely mismanaged by the local governments as there was no effective plan to handle the amount of traffic generated by the call to evacuate.