5 chilling things to know about Austin's frigid February forecast for this week's weather
Yes, it's winter — but the frigid February week forecasters are expecting might still be spine-chilling for even longtime Central Texas residents. Here are five things to know about this week's weather:
1. It's going to get a lot colder.
Temperatures on Friday in Austin are forecast to only reach 35 degrees, which is almost 30 degrees colder than the normal high for Feb. 12, weather service data show. Adding more bite to the chill will be north winds of 10 to 15 mph that could kick up gusts of up to 20 mph.
The blast of cold weather will persist beyond the weekend as a circulating mass of arctic air draws icy winds from northern Canada, National Weather Service meteorologist Paul Yura said. The frigid air will plunge Central Texas into Mother Nature's refrigerator for the next few days.
On Saturday and Sunday, temperatures are expected to stay mostly below 30 degrees, with a wind chill being produced by northerly winds with 20 mph gusts.
Valentine's Day in Austin on Sunday is expected to be one of the coldest on record. In the past 100 years, the coldest Feb. 14 in Austin was in 1951 when the high was 33 and the low was 25 — and it snowed. Should we see snow Sunday, it would be only the third time that Austin got snow on Valentine's Day, the last time being in 2004.
On Monday and Tuesday temperatures will likely rise no higher than a few degrees above freezing or just below freezing.
Temperatures could rebound to as high as 43 on Wednesday.
2. Nighttime lows will be brutal.
Although Friday night temperatures will be below freezing in Austin, rural and suburban areas could be even colder.
In the urbanized Interstate 35 corridor, Austin's overnight low temperatures this weekend are expected to sink to as low as 29 degrees on Saturday and 16 on Sunday.
On Monday night, Austin could get as cold as 10 degrees — it would be the city's lowest temperature for Feb. 15 in 112 years. That day's record low is 20 degrees set in 1909.
3. Protect your four P's.
In freezing weather, you should always try to protect the four P's: people, pets, plants and pipes.
The city of Austin on Thursday opened cold weather shelters for those experiencing homelessness. But city officials said they're also monitoring weather reports and would announce additional plans on days shelters are activated. Those days most likely to meet the criteria of freezing overnight temperatures are Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday, officials said.
In addition to making sure people have a warm place to stay, bring outdoor pets inside and cover your outdoor plants, forecasters said. Cover or shelter farm animals and livestock.
Don't forget to wrap any outdoor water pipes. Pipes also can be allowed to drip slowly. If you have an in-ground sprinkler system, drain it and cover aboveground pipes to keep them from freezing.
4. Watch for icy and fiery dangers.
Freezing weather often means threats from extreme cold and extreme heat. With a wintry mix of rain, sleet and snow expected, drivers should be aware of ice forming on bridges and overpasses. Drivers also should make sure their vehicle has plenty of fuel and a charged cellphone in case they become stranded.
Homeowners should be extra careful with space heaters and fireplaces, which might be in use for the first time in months. Keep flammable materials away from space heaters and clear fireplaces of extraneous items that might catch fire.
5. We should still welcome any rain.
More than an inch of rain fell across parts of the Austin metro area by the end of Thursday, according to the National Weather Service. It wasn't the rainiest Feb. 11 — the wettest was in 1977 when 1.29 inches of rain fell at Austin's main weather station at Camp Mabry — but any precipitation will be welcome, despite posing a danger to drivers and power lines.
Since the start of the year, about 2.2 inches of precipitation has fallen in Austin. Most of that precipitation was in the form of snow on Jan. 10. But with Thursday's rain, Camp Mabry has gotten 0.55 inch of rain in February.
As of Wednesday, rainfall for 2021 was about 0.8 inch below normal, weather service data show. But rain chances — really snow chances — will return Saturday, peak at around 80% on Sunday night and linger into Monday morning.
After a mostly rain-free fall and winter, data from the U.S. Drought Monitor this week show much of Central Texas is abnormally dry or in moderate drought — typically marked by stunted plant growth and dry creeks.
Lake Travis, a water source for Austin and other nearby communities, was considered only 68% full Wednesday, according to the Lower Colorado River Authority, which manages the lake for hydroelectric power and flood control. The lake is seasonably lower in winter but its elevation Wednesday was nearly 659 feet above mean sea level, or almost 10 feet below its historical average elevation for February.