CENTRAL TEXAS (KXAN) — After spending all of December well above average, some of us may have been hoping for the warm weather to last all winter. After a few cold snaps so far in January, forecasts are coming together this week for what looks to be our longest stretch of cold weather mixed with the potential for some wintry precipitation.
While this forecast does include mentions of light wintry precipitation accumulation, it is not going to be on the level of last February’s devastating winter storm. So, we’re here to iron out some of the details on what to expect.
We’ve seen a nice warming trend that’s been underway since Monday. And we’re well on our way to reaching near 80 degrees Wednesday afternoon. This is important to keep in mind, as our ground will also be very warm heading into the time frame when we expect wintry weather. It takes a lot longer for our ground to cool than it does for our air temperatures.
The timing of our cold front looks to blast through this evening, clearing most of Central Texas by sunrise tomorrow, mainly dry. A few light rain showers look possible along the passing of the front along and east of Highway 77 – well east of Austin.
Once the front moves through, clouds will build in, locking the cold air being ushered in through much of the day Thursday. “High” temperatures will likely occur shortly after midnight, as temperatures free fall heading toward sunrise, then hover in the 30s much of the day.
After the cold front passes, an overrunning pattern looks to set up as another disturbance over northern Mexico pulls in moisture from the Eastern Pacific during the day Thursday. These setups typically lead to cloudy, misty, and damp days in Central Texas. However, with the cold air in place, some of the precipitation that falls could be in the wintry mix form – rain, freezing rain, sleet, and snow.
Accumulations, if any, look to be on the range of about 0.10″ to 0.25″.
Any precipitation that falls during the day, whether in the frozen or liquid form, will be very light in accumulation (if any at all). As mentioned, with temperatures near 80 degrees not even 24 hours prior to when we are forecasting this wintry mix event to occur, the ground will likely be too warm for any frozen precipitation to accumulate.
However, while the ground might be too warm, our bridges and overpasses likely will be cold enough for accumulation, especially as our models continue to indicate near freezing temperatures for most of the day. If temperatures stay locked near freezing Thursday (as opposed to slightly above — in the mid & upper 30s), it’s very possible that our bridges and overpasses may be cold enough to support light accumulations of ice.
The time frame for the wintry mix looks to be zeroing in on Thursday, with precipitation ending from west to east before sunset.
The biggest concern for traveling will be overnight Thursday and Friday morning. Any precipitation that fell Thursday, whether in liquid or frozen form, will freeze overnight if it hasn’t evaporated by then, creating the threat for black ice on the roads Friday morning.
Tonight through Friday morning is where we highly encourage you to stay weather aware as we monitor the forecasts and where we get reports of frozen precipitation. This will help us better inform you on when and where to avoid until we warm back above freezing Friday afternoon.
A Winter Weather Advisory will go in effect tonight at 3 a.m. and last through Friday morning at 6 a.m.
How does this compare to February 2021?
While we are monitoring the threat for very small snow and/or ice accumulations, this storm will not be anywhere near the level, or threat, of the February winter storms last year. The February winter storms last year were such an anomaly, it far exceeded what we typically see when Central Texas deals with wintry weather.
Every winter storm is different, but the one in the forecast this week will be more in line with what we usually see in a winter storm. That is:
- Timing– this week will be a relatively small window of potential wintry weather. Roughly about 24 to 36 hours for icy conditions to exist. NOT days of subfreezing temperatures and multiple storms of wintry weather like last year.
- Severity– it’s possible to see ice on the roads Thursday and Friday, but that will likely be the extent of the major impacts. We are not forecasting heavy amounts of ice and snow that will cause widespread power outages. Are they possible? Yes, but not to the extent of what we saw last year. Most roads will still be passable for power crews to tend to any power outages that my occur.
- Temperatures– last February we spent days below freezing, preventing all the snow and ice from melting until almost a week after the first snowflakes fell. That will NOT be the case this week. Again, we are forecasting a relatively small window of time where temperatures will be near or below freezing, allowing any frozen precipitation to melt by Friday afternoon.
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