Someone say snow? Brrr-ace for weekend freeze in Central Texas; rain likely Wednesday, Thursday

Kelsey Bradshaw
Austin American-Statesman

Winter is not done with us just yet, Austin!

A northern cold front that pushed into the Austin area Tuesday morning will be accompanied by surges of cold air throughout the rest of the week, bringing the possibility of ice — or maybe even snow if conditions end up just right — the National Weather Service said. 

The cooler air brought by Tuesday's cold front will hang around for a day or two before a another surge by a frigid air mass invades Texas from Canada early Thursday, weather service meteorologist Paul Yura said. 

A chance of showers, with thunderstorms also possible after noon. Cloudy, with a high near 49. North northeast wind 5 to 10 mph. Chance of precipitation is 50%. New rainfall amounts of less than a tenth of an inch, except higher amounts possible in thunderstorms

Temperatures were already in the 40s on Tuesday, and forecasters expect them to fall further into lows in the 30s and 20s as early as Thursday night. With the cooler temperatures, Central Texans can also expect up to an inch of rainfall between Wednesday and Thursday when rain chances will be as high as 70%.

Cold temperatures will last through the week and will continue to drop over the weekend as a circulating mass of arctic air, drawing frigid winds from northern Canada, drifts into Central Texas, Yura said. 

The weather service expects to have more of a precise estimate of when exactly Austin-area residents should brace for the cold air surges and prepare for any kind of frozen precipitation as we get closer to the weekend, Yura said.

As of Tuesday, the weather service's extended outlook called for temperatures to drop to the lower 20s on Saturday night. Then, temperatures will likely stay around freezing during the day on Sunday and will sink into the lower 20s at night, with a 20% chance of snow.

However, whether or not the Austin area will experience a snow day like we had on Jan. 10, is still to be seen, Yura said. 

"That is obviously the big question everybody has," he said. "The one ingredient that may be in place is the cold air and that's what we always struggle with when we have snow or ice."

Arctic air typically produces ice, but forecasters won't know what Austin will receive from the surge of cold air until the day of or the day before, Yura said.

"This situation is setting up to be more in the realm of ice, not like all the snow accumulation like we saw in January," he said. 

Saturday's surge of arctic air will be the first so far this winter to hit the Austin area, but such bone-chilling air reaching Central Texas is not necessarily unusual. It is not out of the ordinary for at least one arctic air surge to hit the Austin area, keeping it cold and freezing for at least a day, Yura explained.

"This is the first good surge this winter of good arctic air that would pour down out of Canada like this," he said.

This week's cold air will likely produce some of the coldest days of the year so far. Austinites should keep an eye on weather forecasts and updates to stay aware of possible frozen precipitation.

What to do in freezing weather

  • Monitor weather reports to keep up with changing conditions.
  • Adjust your schedule or routine to avoid being outside or keep exposure to a minimum.
  • Check on friends, family and neighbors to make sure they have a warm place to stay.
  • Bring outdoor pets inside. Cover or shelter farm animals and livestock.
  • Cover plants and wrap any outdoor water pipes. Pipes can also be allowed to drip slowly. 
  • If you have an in-ground sprinkler system, drain them and cover above-ground pipes to keep them from freezing.
  • Make sure your vehicle has plenty of fuel and your cell phone is charged in case you become stranded.

Source: National Weather Service