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As you may already know, Texas isn’t exactly known for snow and frigid winter weather. In fact, many parts of the state experience relatively mild winters compared to other parts of the country. However, Texas is a massive state, with its northernmost parts almost 1,000 miles north of the southernmost region, so the weather varies depending on where you are in the state.
However, Texas experiences classic winter weather, and when it does, it can be quite dramatic. And that’s certainly the case in the biggest snowstorm to ever hit the state. So let’s dive in and learn more about this incredible weather event and its impact on the Lone Star State.
Weather patterns in Texas
Contrary to popular belief, Texas’ climate isn’t always hot. In fact, Texas is so large that it includes both cool and warm sections of Northern Hemisphere temperature zones.
Because it is such a massive state, Texas has many climate types, including continental steppe, mountain ranges, arid desert, modified sea, and humid subtropics.
The continental steppe climate occupies most of the state and is found on the flat plains of Texas and is characterized by wide temperature ranges, low precipitation, and low humidity. The steppe also typically has mild winters. The mountain climate will experience occasional heavy rainfall and cooler temperatures than other areas of the state. The state’s coastal areas are subtropical and typically experience heavy rainfall and high humidity.
August is typically the hottest month in Texas with an average high temperature of 94.5 degrees Fahrenheit. This makes Texas one of the hottest states in the country. Texas experiences high temperatures over 90 degrees Fahrenheit on 93.1 days a year.
The highest temperature ever recorded in Texas was 48.9 °C (120 °F), recorded on August 12, 1936 at Seymour during the 1936 North American heat wave and again on June 28, 1994 at Monahans. The lowest temperature ever recorded in Texas was −30.6 °C (−23 °F), recorded in Seminole on February 8, 1933.
In the winter, southern Texas rarely sees freezing temperatures. The Rio Grande Valley can reach as high as 90 degrees Fahrenheit in January.
On the other hand, the northern half of the state experiences annual snowfall, with most of the snowfall occurring in the Texas Panhandle.
Snowstorms can also occur in these plateaus, causing highways to be closed due to strong winds and heavy snow. Winter is generally the driest season for the entire state except for East Texas. Therefore, drought is to be expected at this time of the year.
The blizzard of 1929 in Texas
In early December 1929 it was unusually warm in North Texas, with high temperatures mostly between 60 and 70 degrees. However, those mild winter temperatures quickly turned cold on December 17 as a polar front moved into the region.
Within a day, temperatures had dropped by about 40 degrees. On December 18, despite sunny skies, the temperature struggled to climb above freezing. A strong storm system moved in in the northern part of the state, and in the Panhandle temperatures dropped to almost 0 degrees. By the morning of December 19, a few inches of snow had fallen in parts of the Panhandle.
The storm system was slowly moving southeast. On December 20, snow began to fall in the western Texas regions. The snowstorm lasted all night. By the time the sun rose on December 21, snow had fallen heavily throughout central Texas, in Travis and Williamson counties, and in the Northeast toward Tyler and Nacogdoches. Some areas of the state had already received 16 inches of snow that morning.
The heavy snowfall lasted for several hours before easing in the evening. By the late evening of December 21, it was snowing only in the easternmost regions of Texas.
Although the storm only lasted 24 hours, the amount of snowfall was exceptional. The snowfall area where snowfall was 12 inches or more was 3 counties wide. Some cities had total snowfall of 24 inches or more, which is the heaviest snowfall in Texas on record.
The cities of Clifton and Hillsboro in particular received the most snow. Clifton had 24 inches of snow during the 24-hour storm. And Hillsboro received a staggering 26 inches, which officially holds the record for the highest snowfall in Texas.
inconvenience, loss and damage
The snowstorm that struck Texas in 1929 was a significant event that had a major impact on the state. The storm brought heavy snowfall and extremely cold temperatures, causing widespread disruption and hardship for many people.
There were likely many cancellations and disruptions due to the snowstorm, as the heavy snowfall and cold temperatures made it difficult for people to travel or go about their usual activities. Some people may be snowed in and unable to leave their homes or travel to other locations due to the hazardous conditions.
During the blizzard, people may have had difficulty accessing food, water and other necessities. In the days before widespread electricity and modern heating systems, staying warm and maintaining a reliable source of food and water in such extreme weather conditions may have been a particular challenge.
There is no official report of the damage and casualties caused by this storm.
Wildlife in Texas
Texas is home to diverse wildlife, including a variety of mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, and fish. Some of the state’s most famous and well-known species include white-tailed deer, pronghorn, javelin, bison, and alligators.
Some of the species have adapted to survive in cold weather. But, unfortunately, not all blizzards and cold spells can survive. Let’s look at how wildlife in Texas is surviving in extremely cold weather.
White-tailed deer are highly adaptable animals, and they have a number of traits that help them survive through the winter months. For example, as summer turns to fall and then to winter, deer begin to eat more and build up layers of fat to protect their bodies from the cold.
They also shed their reddish summer coats in favor of thicker, more insulating winter coats. With these adaptations, white-tailed deer are well equipped to withstand harsh winter weather, including snowstorms like the one that struck Texas in 1929.
In cold weather, bats migrate to find their food sources. They travel to areas where there are many insects to eat. On the other hand, some bat species choose to hibernate rather than migrate.
During hibernation, they look for a suitable place to rest, such as a den or culvert, until the end of winter. They can usually survive the cold weather as they are well prepared in advance.
When the weather turns cold, birds have a few tricks up their sleeve to help them survive. For example, you may have noticed that some birds inflate their feathers to create a layer of warm air around their bodies. Also, many birds flock together to find food sources and build up their energy reserves.
This can be especially important during the winter months when food can be scarce. In general, birds that have been able to build up fat stores and have had access to consistent, nutritious food and suitable habitat are more likely to be healthy and survive the winter. On the other hand, birds with low fat reserves would not survive a blizzard like 1929.
As the temperature drops, many fish slow down and swim to deeper waters where it is slightly warmer. However, fish living in shallow waters, especially near the coast, may not be able to withstand a severe freeze.
This can lead to a phenomenon known as “fish kills,” where large numbers of fish die during a cold snap.
Lizards in Texas can survive winters and snowstorms by entering a state of brumation, finding warm places to shelter, and regulating their body temperature. Different species may use different strategies because they have different adaptations to the cold.
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