Winter weather hits Texas and expected to last through early Friday
Some of this winter’s coldest weather to date has arrived, hitting much of Texas with freezing or below-freezing temperatures.
San Antonio and Austin are under a winter weather advisory until 6 a.m. Friday with a chance of minor sleet, snow and ice accumulations, according to Thursday afternoon’s forecast. San Antonio highs will hover in the 40s and lows will be near or at freezing with chills in the 20s. In response, the city opened warming centers on Wednesday.
Austin should see a high near 37 degrees and lows of about 27 degrees and is opening its own warming centers on Thursday.
Highs in the Dallas-Fort Worth area are expected to hover near 40 degrees Thursday with lows dipping into the 20s overnight and through the predawn hours. Highs should reach the low 40s Friday, according to Thursday’s forecast. Temperatures will reach the mid-40s Friday before climbing back into the 50s over the weekend.
Houston hasn’t been spared. Thursday’s forecasters call for high temperatures in the upper 40s and lows in the lower to mid-30s Thursday and Friday. The Houston area could also see some precipitation, but surface temperatures should be warm enough to prevent any accumulations on the roadways, meteorologist Tim Cady told Houston Public Media.
And while El Paso and Far West Texas residents saw highs in the 60s earlier this week, highs will only reach the mid-40s Thursday with overnight lows dipping into the low-to-mid 20s.
What may be the season’s worst cold snap comes as Texans still remember winter storm Uri. That February 2021 storm plunged most of the state into subfreezing temperatures for days and led to widespread power outages that left millions without power and caused hundreds of deaths.
This week, the state’s grid operator, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, sought to ease some concerns about its readiness. In a statement Tuesday, ERCOT said “321 out of 324 electric generation units and transmission facilities fully passed inspection for new winterization regulations.”
Unlike last winter’s storm however, this week’s cold front is not expected to be as long or as severe.
“We’re not expecting anything really similar to the winter storm that we experienced last year, that was pretty abnormal,” said Dallas-based National Weather Service meteorologist Sarah Barnes.
“It’s not impossible to get temperatures that cold and for it to be subfreezing all day, but it takes a really good shot of cold arctic air to get us to stay below freezing all day,” added Barnes.
Barnes emphasized protecting the “four Ps”: people, pets, plants, and pipes during the current cold snap.
Despite ERCOT’s assertions that the grid is up to the task, some state lawmakers said they want to see proof.
“What I hear from my constituents is that people still don’t have confidence in the stability of our grid to withstand another major storm, and there is good reason,” said state Rep. Gina Hinojosa, D-Austin, who is hosting a Webinar next week with ERCOT CEO Brad Jones.
Still, Hinojosa added, “I don’t think anybody expects the grid to go down with this winter storm that’s coming. It nowhere compares to the 60 or 70 hours below freezing we experienced during Uri.”
Meanwhile, the Texas Department of Public Safety is urging drivers to plan ahead and monitor road conditions by visiting the Drive Texas website or calling (800) 452-9292.
The Texas grid operator ERCOT just issued an "Operational Condition Notice" due to possible freezing weather later this week. This is a first step to trying to ensure enough electricity in potential bad weather. ERCOT CEO Brad Jones says he is confident grid will be fine.— Mose Buchele (@MoseBuchele) January 18, 2022
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