AUSTIN (KXAN) — While this winter storm has brought significant icing issues including major travel disruptions and power outages, this storm will not be a repeat of our February 2021 winter storm. The duration and intensity of the freezing cold weather are the key differences. Here’s how these two storms compare:
A record storm by multiple accounts, the February 2021 winter storm is likely to stay unmatched for some time. A dip in the jet stream allowed a chunk of the polar vortex to sink south, keeping northerly winds in place for over a week and temperatures below freezing for 6 straight days. Five storm systems impacted the area bringing over a half a foot of snow, ice and frigid cold to Central Texas. During this period we also experienced the coldest morning since December 1989 with a -1 degree temperature reading in the metro area.
While we at times experience freezing mist, drizzle and even a few sleet pellets mixed in here and there, the primary form of precipitation from this ice storm has and will continue to be in the form of freezing rain. So much so that this freezing rain will accumulate to as much as 3/4″ of ice in spots. That is one major difference from the February 2021 storm. More ice, but with no snow. Temperatures will also climb above freezing by Thursday, making this a significantly shorter winter storm as well.
Widespread bursting pipes not expected this time around
This storm will also not bring the record breaking Arctic cold that we saw with the last storm. With the February 2021 storm we had city-wide water mains burst as a result of temperatures plummeting into the teens and even single digits for days. While much of our area throughout this ice storm of 2023 will be below freezing for a few days, many areas still will not fall below the upper 20s or even the low 30s. Because of this, this cold air will not be nearly intense enough to cause widespread bursting pipes like we saw back with the February 2021 storm.
If you’d like to read more about past weather events in Central Texas, find more in our KXAN Weather Diary.