Weather Report: Historic Cold Snaps

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January 13, 2015
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Q: When did the worst period of cold weather occur in Texas?

A:  The record was more than 100 years ago, says Texas A&M University’s John Nielsen-Gammon, who also serves as the state climatologist. “On February 12, 1899, both Texas and Oklahoma had its coldest weather ever,” he reports.

Q: When did the worst period of cold weather occur in Texas?

A:  The record was more than 100 years ago, says Texas A&M University’s John Nielsen-Gammon, who also serves as the state climatologist. “On February 12, 1899, both Texas and Oklahoma had its coldest weather ever,” he reports. “On that day, all of Oklahoma was below minus-10 degrees, while one-half of Texas was below zero. Galveston Bay had areas of ice in it. Most cold waves in Texas aren’t that bad because the cold air tends to move east quickly, but on this particular day the air mass was so cold and large that there was little that Mother Nature could do to prevent it.”

Q: What about other cold periods?

A: In December 1895, Amarillo had a cold spell in which the city spent 261 consecutive hours below freezing. In January 1930, the temperature reached only 13 degrees in Galveston while farther north, Oklahoma set its all-time cold record of minus 27 degrees in the town of Watts, Nielsen-Gammon adds. “In the more modern era, on January 4, 1959, Spearman in north Texas had a high temperature of zero. On January 9-12 of 1962, the temperature dropped to minus-14 degrees in the Panhandle and 10 degrees in the lower Rio Grande Valley, which saw 65 consecutive hours below freezing. And in the last days of January 1951, Houston was below freezing for a record 132 consecutive hours.”

Weather Whys is a service of the Department of Atmospheric Sciences at Texas A&M University.