When we talk about Texas, your mind automatically begins to imagine western cowboys and horses wandering a great desert. What if we tell you that modern-day Texas isn’t as you see it in the 80s movies? Less than 10% of Texas is desert and the rest is populated by modern cities and green areas. That, however, doesn’t stop Texas from getting short and dry winters.
So, when does it start getting cold in Texas? The official winter starts around late December or early November and it lasts for a bit less than three months. But when does it actually start to get cold? How cold does it get? Does it snow or rain? And if so, where?
Despite having the official winter calendar listed from late December to late February, the actual cold weather starts mid to late November and ends in early February.
It often gets colder in certain areas over others as well. The southeastern areas of the state are on the shore of the Gulf of Mexico and usually get colder first.
Even in summer, those areas have colder air than the rest of the state. Water absorbs heat a lot slower than land. The sea breeze is often responsible for that.
When the air hits the surface of the water, it cools down. The cooler water also acts to increase the pressure of the air that hits it. The cool air would then move from areas of high pressure (open water) to areas of low pressure (land.)
That phenomenon is what we call the sea breeze and it often serves to make the shore areas of Texas colder in winter.
The nine lucky counties to have that sea breeze are:
- San Patricio
- Jim Wells
The lowest ever recorded temperature in Texas was -8°F in 1899. Don’t let that give you the wrong impression, though. Texas has an average cold temperature of 45°F.
On the other hand, we don’t seem to be too far from reaching those -8°F. On February 16th, 2021, a record low temperature was recorded at Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport. The temperature went down to a chilling -2°F.
That extreme cold led to widespread power outages (more on that soon) in Dallas and other parts of the state. Texas simply isn’t used to those low temperatures.
Here’s how the temperature fluctuates in Dallas, Texas throughout the winter. The rest of the state usually isn’t too far away from those statistics.
|Month||Average High||Average Low||Mean||Record High||Record Low|
To cut to the chase, snow isn’t as common in Texas as it is in other northern states like New York, for example. This is probably because Texas is one of the two closest states to the equator. The other state is Florida.
The equator is an imaginary line that splits the Earth horizontally into two parts. The closer you are to the equator, the hotter your summers will be and the less cold your winters will be.
The Sun’s rays are the reason behind that phenomenon. They hit the Earth more directly at the equator. The further you go away from it, the more indirect sun rays you get and the less effective the rays become.
That being said, Texas has still seen snow occasionally. It even got extreme on rare occasions.
On December 20, 1929, Texas saw its biggest snowstorm at that time. It started as mild 2-inch snow on the 19th and then intensified extensively on the following day.
The Historic Texas Snowstorm hardly lasted 24 hours but the results were extraordinary. A large chunk of eastern Texas was covered in a 12-inch show. Clifton and Hillsborough counties had it much worse than others with around 25 inches of snow!
A more recent storm unofficially known as “Winter Storm Uri” hit Texas on February 13, 2021. Over 10 million people in Texas and Mexico experienced blackouts. The storm caused over $190 billion worth of damage and unfortunately…some fatalities as well.
Surprisingly, Texas gets more rain throughout the year than it gets in winter. The Texan winter is often dry and has more tendency to snow than it has to rain.
May is said to be the wettest month in Texas while August is often the driest. December, January, and February don’t often see much rain although it’s still possible sometimes.
January is typically the coldest month of the year for Texans. The coldest areas are usually the southwestern areas where a cold sea breeze is present. The Panhandle region, however, often experiences more cold than average despite being the farthest from the Gulf of Mexico.
According to the heat index, Fort Worth has the coldest average temperatures in Texas. The reason is probably its altitude as it’s elevated 653 ft above sea level. Fort Worth is also more likely to get snow than other parts of Texas with a height that reaches 7 inches sometimes.
Houston seems to be the undisputed rainy king of Texas. It can get more rain in one week than a combination of other Texan cities all year. Fort Worth is the second rainiest city followed by Dallas.
Snow in Texas isn’t common in general. If snow does appear in Texas, it’s more common in the northwestern areas. The average snow height in Texas is less than half an inch. The snow hardly turns to ice and mostly melts in a day or two.