By far the biggest impact today will be widespread high winds…
A very energetic upper-level storm system will intensify over the state today and tonight as it slowly moves west to east. This intensification will not only allow it to cause a variety of impacts in the weather department, but it’ll also allow stronger winds aloft to mix down to the surface. Winds aloft at around 5,000 feet ASL will approach 95 MPH on the back-side of the upper low tonight. Luckily not all of that wind will mix down to the surface, but we are anticipating one of the more potent wind events we’ve seen in several years.
Peak wind gust values depicted on the graphic above come directly from the National Weather Service gridded data. That means there may be some differences on each individual office’s borders, but overall one can get the picture. Wind gusts may approach 70 MPH across the Texas Panhandle with wind gusts approaching or hitting 60 MPH across Northwest Texas, West Texas, and getting darn near close to that along and west of I-35/I-35W in North Texas. With the exception of Northeast Texas, East Texas, and Southeast Texas, who will be on the east/southeast side of the low, today and tonight are going to be very windy.
Unsecured decorations and items outdoors have a high probability of ending up in the county downstream of you. Where wind gusts exceed 50 MPH we may see localized power outages and some tree damage. Obviously, we don’t want any sparks starting grass fires with these projected wind speeds.
Severe Thunderstorm Threat Today
The folks up at the Storm Prediction Center have introduced a small level 2 severe weather risk zone across Northeast Texas and East Texas. A level 1 risk includes all of Northeast Texas, East Texas, and far Southeast Texas. Don’t pay too much attention to the exact location of the lines. If you’re near one of the risk zones, you’re close enough that you might see a strong thunderstorm today.
Isolated to scattered strong thunderstorms may fire up by the early afternoon hours in an arc from the upper-level low located just southwest of D/FW this afternoon extending back to the east, hence the western delineation of the risk zones.
Very cold temperatures aloft would promote the threat of hail with stronger storms, and we may even see copious amounts of small hail with weaker storms. A brief tornado and localized damaging thunderstorm wind gust cannot be ruled out. The threat of stronger storms should decrease within an hour or two after sunset.
The highest precipitation totals should be across far Southeast Texas extending in an arc to the northwest into Texoma. One to two inches of rain may fall through Friday morning along Highway 82 from Wichita Falls to Texarkana. Rain totals decrease with southward extent, although with an uptick from the Arklatex south toward Beaumont and Port Arthur. A higher swath of precipitation totals does look possible across the Big Country – and that’ll likely be in the form of a rain/snow mix. All precipitation will come to an end on Friday as gusty northwest winds continue.
A winter weather advisory is in effect this afternoon through Friday morning across a majority of the Big Country and western North Texas. This is well west of the D/FW Metroplex and has shifted south of Northwest Texas (including Wichita Falls). The threat zone for accumulating snow is a small one and will coincide with dynamic cooling aloft on the back-side of a strong upper-level low. The position of this low will dictate where this changeover to snow occurs, and that zone may only be in an axis that includes a few counties. Not everyone in this advisory will get accumulating snow.
Those in higher elevations (hills) versus valleys have a higher chance of snow. As a general guideline, it looks like one to two inches of a wet, slushy snow will be possible. However, there are indications that locally enhanced accumulations up to five inches may occur on some higher elevation hills. The small elevation differences between hills and valleys (compared to the western US) typically doesn’t matter here, but it may today. Surface temperatures should remain a few degrees above freezing, so snow would have to be falling heavy enough to overcome that and warmer ground temperatures to accumulate.
Yes, I know that most of you are like… but David, why would snow accumulate with surface temperatures in the mid-30s? Trust me, given the dynamic cooling aloft and the potential for a heavy, wet snow, we could see it happen in a few spots. Accumulations wouldn’t last long and would likely be gone within hours of the snow ending. That’s good news for those who may have some hazardous road conditions develop.
A rain/snow mix is possible farther south and east tonight into Friday morning as the low pressure progresses east. At this time we’re not expecting accumulations, but I can’t rule out a brief dusting of wet snow in parts of the Hill Country, Central Texas, and North Texas – even if it is unlikely. Surface temperatures are expected to remain above freezing.