Here’s when the potential wintry weather could hit Austin

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 spells so far in January, the forecast is coming to fruition this week for what looks to be our longest spell of cold weather mixed with potential winter precipitation.

While these forecasts include mentions of light winter precipitation accumulation, they will not be at the level of last February’s devastating winter storm. So we’re here to iron out some details on what to expect.

The forecasts

This week will see a very good warm up with highs in the 70s on Tuesday and near 80 degrees on Wednesday. It is important to keep this in mind, as our ground will also be very warm as we approach the period when we expect winter weather. It takes much longer for our soil to cool down than it does for the temperature of our air.

The timing of our cold front appears to be Wednesday night and early Thursday, clearing most of central Texas at mostly dry sunrise. A few light rain showers look possible along the passage of the front along and east of Highway 77 – well east of Austin.

GRAF models indicating the front passage before 12a Thursday

Once the front breaks through, clouds will build up, blocking the introduced cold air for much of Thursday. “High” temperatures will likely occur shortly after midnight, as temperatures drop around sunrise and then hover around 40 degrees during the day.

After the passage of the cold front, an overshoot pattern appears to be taking place as another disturbance over northern Mexico draws in moisture from the eastern Pacific during the day Thursday. These patterns typically lead to overcast, foggy, and humid days in central Texas. However, with the cold air in place, some of the precipitation that falls could be in the form of a winter mix – rain, freezing rain, ice pellets and snow.

Long range EURO model for Thursday at 11 a.m.

Accumulations, if any, appear to be between about 0.10″ and 0.25″.

Implications

Any precipitation that falls during the day, whether in frozen or liquid form, will be very light in accumulation (if any). As mentioned, with temperatures approaching 80 degrees not even 24 hours before when we expect this winter mixing event to occur, the ground will likely be too warm for freezing precipitation to accumulate.

yet, the ground may be too hot, but our bridges and viaducts are susceptible will be be cold enough for accumulation, especially if the patterns continue to trend colder during the day Thursday. If temperatures remain locked in near freezing on Thursday (as opposed to near 40 degrees as currently forecast), it is quite possible that our bridges and overpasses will be cold enough to support light accumulations of ice.

The winter mixing schedule appears to be concentrated on Thursday, with precipitation ending west to east before midnight.

The biggest concern for travel will be overnight Thursday and Friday morning. Any precipitation that fell on Thursday, whether in liquid or frozen form, will freeze overnight if it hasn’t evaporated by then, creating a threat of icy conditions on the roads Friday morning.

Thursday through Friday mornings, we strongly encourage you to stay up to date with the weather as we monitor forecasts and receive reports of frozen precipitation. This will help us better inform you of when and where to avoid until we warm above freezing on Friday afternoon.

How does this compare to February 2021?

Although we are monitoring the threat of very small accumulations of snow and/or ice, this storm will be nowhere near the level, or threat, of winter storms in February of last year. The February winter storms of last year were such an anomaly that they far exceeded what we usually see when central Texas faces wintry weather.

Every winter storm is different, the one forecast for this week will be more in line with what we usually see in a winter storm. That is to say:

  • Hourly– this week will be a relatively small window of potential wintry weather. About 24 to 36 hours for freezing conditions. NO days of below freezing temperatures and multiple winter weather storms like last year.
  • Gravity– it is possible to see ice on the roads on Thursday and Friday, but that will probably be the extent of major impacts. We do not anticipate large 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 electrical crews to deal with power outages.
  • Temperatures– last February, we spent days below freezing, preventing all snow and ice from melting until nearly a week after the first snowflakes had fallen. This will NOT be the case this week. Again, we anticipate a relatively short window of time where temperatures will be near or below freezing, allowing any frozen precipitation to melt by Friday afternoon.

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