Enjoying a Heavenly Big Sky Summer While Back Home It’s Hot As . . . Texas

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This has been the hottest, driest summer in Houston since I’ve lived in Texas. Most of the state is in an exceptional drought, which is the most severe level. Not only are we dealing with the lack of rainfall but also the heat. Yes, summers are always hot in Texas but this year’s a little extreme. In the Dallas-Fort Worth area, they’ve had 51 days when temperatures reached or exceeded 100⁰F.  This puts 2011 in 4th place with the DFW all-time record number of 100F+ days standing at 69 days set back in 1980. However, this year they did break a record for the number of days with a minimum nightly low temperature of 80⁰ or greater. As of 8/17, the number of consecutive 80+low nights is 40 which shattered the previous record of 14 that was set back in 1998. In Waco, they just broke a record for the number of days that reached or exceeded 100⁰F. They’re currently on day 65 which breaks the previous record of 63 days set back in 1980. As for Houston, we’ve had 27 days when temperatures reached or exceeded 100⁰F. That record is 32 days for Houston (IAH), but that could easily be broken as temperatures the next several days are expected to reach or exceed 100⁰F.

Records have been broken in College Station (44 days), Huntsville (51 days), Conroe (32 days) and Houston Hobby (9 days) where temperatures reached or exceeded 100 degrees. Image: NWS Houston

Luckily, I was able to escape the Texas heat just in time as I’ve been deployed to Montana on a special assignment for ImpactWeather. I’ve never been to Montana before and I would definitely love to come back. What’s one of my favorite things about Montana? The weather, of course!

Yes, it gets hot here during the summer months. Matter of fact, last Sunday afternoon the high reached 94⁰F at the Billings Logan International Airport. However, it’s a different kind of heat. Yes, it’s still hot, so what do I mean? Well, it’s certainly not humid like it is in Houston with dew points most days in the 30-40’s. Dew points typically in Houston are in the 60-70’s, which makes a huge difference in how it actually feels.  As I write this on Wednesday afternoon, the current temperature in Billings is 80⁰F with a dew point of 42⁰F and a heat index of 79⁰F. In Houston, it’s currently 99⁰F with a dew point of 64⁰F and a heat index of 102⁰F. Now you see why I love the weather up here so much!  (My coworkers in Houston, Florida, South Carolina and Boston have all mentioned that I’ll definitely need to brace myself for the return to the crab boil on the Texas coast.)

Welcome to Big Sky Country! Photos: Lauren Whisenhunt

Most days since I’ve been here we’ve seen mostly sunny skies during the morning/early afternoon hours, but by mid afternoon thunderstorms start to develop across the Beartooth Mountains.  Several disturbances and frontal systems have moved over the area while I’ve been here with thunderstorms developing and moving across the Billings area. After the storms moved through, there were several times when I saw rainbows. Matter of fact, I even saw a double rainbow. You have to look really close at the picture (see below) to see it because this photo was taken with my cell phone and isn’t the best quality. A double rainbow forms when there’s a double reflection of sunlight inside the raindrops and as a result of the second reflection, the colors are inverted. Also, the secondary rainbow doesn’t appear as bright as the primary rainbow because more light escapes from it.

A double rainbow in Montana after a thunderstorm moved through. Photo: Brian Thompson

The Beartooth Mountains. Photo: Brian Thompson

Yes, the weather’s definitely better in Montana right now than it is in Texas. Not to brag or anything, but most days I wake up to temperatures in the mid to upper 50’s. The morning hours here remind me of a nice fall day, which is definitely something I could get use to. Sometimes it’s hard for me to believe that it’s still summertime, but that will come to a screeching halt soon when I find myself arriving at Bush Intercontinental in Houston. At this point, even though the beach is so close for us Houstonians, the ocean doesn’t give us much relief as water temperatures down in Galveston are in the upper 80’s. But get this: offshore Rockport, TX, the water temperatures as of this afternoon are 94.8F. You might as well take a hot bath! Who needs a hot tub when you have Texas heat?

Water temperatures off the upper Texas coast as of 3pm MDT Wednesday, August 17. Image: NODC.NOAA.GOV

Just thinking about the hot weather back home makes me enjoy this weather even more. This has been such a great experience for me in many ways while I’ve been in Montana. I’ve made a lot of new friends and I’m honestly sad to leave them. Even though I didn’t have much free time to see all the sites I wanted to, I did manage to squeeze in a little bit of fun. I went to the Montana Fair and ate at a few amazing restaurants. I definitely have my top two favorite places.  One place up here, Montana Brewing Company, makes an amazing macaroni and cheese and I’m a pretty tough critique being from the south. The other place I love, the Rib and Chop House, grills a fantastic sirloin along with making an awesome chocolate peanut butter pie. I’m getting hungry just thinking about it and it’s a good thing I’m going tonight.

Looking back over the past few weeks it’s sometimes hard to believe I’ve been here as long as I have because it’s gone by so fast. I’ll admit I was nervous coming to a new place and not knowing a single person, but I couldn’t image now not knowing the people I’ve met along the way. I know we’ll keep in touch even though my time here is coming to an end. This isn’t goodbye, it’s until we meet again.

Adieu, Montana Brewing Company. I will miss you. Photo: Lauren Whisenhunt

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