HOUSTON – Well that was fun — the snow that is. Growing up on the north side, it definitely ranks as one of the bigger snows I’ve seen here. And yes, Brazoria County, I’m aware of your 13 inches on Christmas Eve, 2004. Lucky dogs. As a whole though, this was quite the snow storm by Houston standards.
Now, could it happen again?
The answer is, yes, absolutely. Is it likely? No. Of course to get better perspective on this, we have to turn to the record books.
Thursday’s snowstorm marks the 36th time snow has been recorded in Houston since the blizzard of 1895 — the bench mark of snow events in Houston probably for forever more. That’s 122 years. Doing the math, that averages out to about once every four years.
Now it doesn’t happen often but it can snow multiple times in the same year and has done so on six different occasions (1961, 1963, 1973, 1981, 1985, 1989). Of those six, five snow events occured in the same winter season. 1961 is the only year where it snowed in January and then again the following December, two different winter seasons in the same calendar year.
- 1961: January 25th: Trace
- December 13th: Trace
- 1963: January 14th: Trace
- February 12th: Trace
- 1973: January 11th: 2.0″
- February 9th/10th: 1.4″
- February 17th/18th: 1.4″
- 1981: January 19th: Trace
- February 11th: Trace
- 1985: January 2nd: 2.0″
- February 1st: 1.0″
- 1989: February 6th: Trace
- December 12th: Trace
- December 22nd: 1.7″
According to the Weather Research Center, it has been eight years, 2009, since Houston last saw snowfall. That’s the third longest snow drought (tied with several other droughts) on record. The longest snow drought in Houston lasted 17 years from 1895 until 1912.
Having an early snowfall doesn’t mean that we’ll necessarily see another one this year either. In 2008, we tied the record for the earliest snowfall (December 10th). It didn’t snow the rest of the season. The very next year, it snowed on December 4th setting another earliest snowfall record. No snow was seen after that either. In 2017, we set the second earliest snow on record. If the previous “earliest” records are any indication, it doesn’t look good for us the rest of this season.
This year is a completely different animal and long range models continue to advertise long stretches of cold weather heading into the week of Christmas.
Without causing hysteria, there seems to be an indication that the jet stream will buckle once again allowing for very cold arctic air to spill into Texas in the December 23rd – 25th timeframe. As see in the model image above, temperatures might be as much as 20 degrees below normal by that time.
Could there be a little wintry something? I don’t know yet but I wouldn’t say the chance is absolutely zero. Winter weather in Houston is not well advertised and notoriously difficult to predict, especially this far out. It only takes two ingredients to get wintry weather here: cold and moisture. That’s easier said than done hints why it’s only snowed here 36 times in 122 years. The timing has to be perfect.
It looks like we might have the cold. Will we have the moisture? Remains to be seen.
One thing I can tell you about this coming Christmas is that it’s not going to be the blowtorch Christmas we saw in 2016. That’s almost a fact. Other than that, nothing else can really be said. We’ll all have to watch and wait together.