What a hurricane strike could mean for Houston snow chances this winter

HOUSTON - So there's an old adage here in Houston that if we get hit by a hurricane it will likely snow the following winter. Using that line of thinking, we could potentially be in for our first accumulating snowfall in Houston in seven years.

Except we really didn't get hit by the hurricane. We sort of got sideswiped. These are minor details. 

Now before we all get hysterical, I want to be clear that I am in no way saying its going to snow in Houston this year -- although I could say it's possible. No harm in that. It's snowed before and it will again at some point.

As I mentioned in Thursday's blog, there have been 35 snowfalls in Houston since 1895. That averages out to about one snowfall every four years. That said, we're overdue. 

So where does this idea about hurricanes and snow being linked come from? Who knows. One could argue that there is a very weak correlation between hurricane strikes and snowfalls in southeast Texas. 

That's like saying there's a loose correlation between eating salads and being overweight. I mean if you loaded your salad up with cheese, sour cream, ground beef, guacamole -- and oh by the way, the deep fried bowl its in. It reminds me of the "real men of genius" commercials: "is it healthy? You bet it is! After all, it's a salad isn't it?"

Off the top of my head, here are a few I can think of:

-Hurricane Ike in September 2008 followed by 1.4 inch snowfall on December 10th of the same year.

-Hurricane Jerry in October 1989 followed by a 1.7 inch snowfall on December 22nd of the same year.

-Hurricane Carla in September 1961 followed by a trace snowfall in December of the same year.

On the contrary, I've found plenty of examples of a snowfall followed by a hurricane; think Hurricane Carla again (snow fell before and after Carla which is why it's listed twice).

Most notably, the big landmark snowfalls in Houston were neither preceded by or followed by a hurricane. These years include 1895 (20+ inches), 1960 (4.4 inches) and the Christmas snow of 2004 (1 to 13 inches).

The point being is that there is no sound science to back up the claim that every time Houston has been hit by a hurricane we've gotten a snowfall the following winter. I can find plenty of examples where one has occurred without the other.

Our geographical location demands a perfect set of conditions and timing to get snow to fall along the gulf coast. It requires a deep pool of cold, Canadian air and a potent upper-level disturbance to pass over the top of it. It sounds simple but getting the two to line up requires exact timing which is why snow is relatively rare in our neck-of-the-woods. 

Therefore the question of whether it's going to snow this year remains a mystery. Believe me, I'm watching the pattern closely and if there is any chance flakes will fly, I'll be the first one to be hysterical. Until then, simmer down my friends. 

 

 

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