When does winter begin? On the calendar it’s December 21 but it has many unofficial start times: the first freeze, the first snow, when it gets dark so early in the evening, the first “snow day,” the first day to wear the winter jacket, the first day to use the heater in the car. This winter of 2010-2011 has had many different start times to many different people and many different regions of the country. I think it’s safe to say that, by now, winter has truly begun. However, like an engine spinning up its turbo for additional horsepower this winter is about to really begin for many outside traditional northern snow and cold regions of the U.S.
Snow, ice, wind, cold, prolonged cold. It’s all in the near future for many areas not used to seeing such weather extremes. Brownsville, Texas — one of the southernmost places in the U.S. — will likely see freezing temperatures later this week. For the Gulf Coast of Texas and Louisiana, a freeze is not a regular occurrence but it’s not infrequent, either. What is infrequent is a prolonged freeze that lasts more than just a couple of hours around sunrise. And that looks likely this week. Also infrequent is Gulf Coast snow and that, too, is likely (or, at least possible) this week. And as the cold, Arctic air undercuts the warm, humid air now in place over much of the South (73F expected in Houston today) a broad area of ice and freezing rain is expected. Then as the warm air is gradually displaced by the colder air, the ice threat will diminish and the snow threat will increase.
Key for southern areas such as the Rio Grande Valley and Gulf Coast of Texas will be the prolonged cold and extended periods of at- or below-freezing temperatures. It’s been many, many years since this sort of extended cold has pushed so far south. Strong winds and wind chill will exacerbate an already cold situation. Preparation, as with any severe weather situation, should begin now.
We’ll continue to blog about this winter storm and prolonged cold event each day this week. In addition, you can visit the ImpactWeather YouTube channel for all our latest videos. Today’s video, produced by ImpactWeather’s Chris Hebert, is now ready for viewing.
If you listen, you can hear the whine of the turbine blades now.