DPS reminds Texans of winter weather safety tips

From the Texas Department of Public Safety:

The Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) encourages Texans in all regions of the state to make preparations for winter weather as we enter the cold weather season.

“While we’ve all heard the joke about Texas only having two seasons – hot and hotter – all Texans need to prepare now for the serious threats that the upcoming winter could bring,” said DPS Director Steven McCraw. “Every year, Texas faces the dangers of winter weather conditions, including freezing temperatures, ice, sleet, and even snow. Texans are urged to stay informed about changing weather in their area and to take steps now to help stay safe during the coming months.”

Don’t worry: Austin and Central Texas won’t see weather like the storm that hit Boston in March, but Texans still need to prepare for possible winter weather hazards. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)

Texans should winterize their vehicles by checking the battery, windshield wipers (including appropriate freeze resistant-fluid), tire pressure, tire tread, fluid levels, and lubricate door and trunk locks to prevent freezing. In addition, here is a list of emergency supplies drivers can keep in their vehicle:
• Blankets/sleeping bags, extra clothing, gloves and a hat.
• Cell phone, radio, flashlight and extra batteries.
• First-aid kit and pocket knife.
• High calorie, non-perishable food and bottled water.
• Bag of sand or cat litter to provide traction for tires.
• Windshield scraper, tool kit, booster cables, tow rope and a shovel.

DPS offers the following additional tips for staying safe during possible winter weather:
• Monitor local weather broadcasts and follow up-to-the-minute weather conditions, at http://www.weather.gov/.
• Purchase an all-hazards weather radio for up-to-date warnings, watches, forecasts and other hazard information.
• Sign up for your local emergency notification system.
• Make sure your vehicle is properly maintained before any trip, and keep your gas tank full.
• On icy roads, drive slowly and increase distance required for stopping, and avoid using cruise control.
• Watch for downed trees and power lines across roads. If power is out, treat all intersections as four-way stops.
• Allow extra time when traveling in inclement weather.
• Avoid traveling when sleet, freezing rain or snow is predicted, and monitor road conditions by visiting www.drivetexas.org or by calling 1-800-452-9292.
• Insulate outside faucets and pipes near outer walls.
• Make sure that furnaces, heaters, fireplaces and wood stoves are clean, well-ventilated and in good working condition.
• To prevent carbon monoxide poisoning, NEVER operate generators and other fuel-powered devices inside a home or an enclosed space, such as a garage. The deadly odorless, colorless gas is produced any time a fossil fuel is burned, with sources including motor vehicle engines, generators and fuel-burning appliances or heating systems. Consider installing a carbon monoxide detector.
• Make arrangements for proper shelter and an emergency supply of food and water for your pets and livestock.
• Stock up on firewood and supplies, including canned goods and bottled water.
• If you will be away from home for a long period of time, set your thermostat to 55 degrees or higher and open cabinets under sinks.
• Make sure you have inclement weather contact numbers for schools and work.
• Check on friends and family members whose health or age may put them at greater risk from cold weather.

During the winter season, residents can contact 2-1-1 Texas, the state’s free 24-hour helpline, to check on possible community-established warming centers or related services in their area. No matter where you live in Texas, you can dial 2-1-1 or 877-541-7905 for community resources.

Visit http://www.txdps.state.tx.us/dem/ThreatAwareness/winterstorm.htm for additional information and tips regarding winter weather preparedness.

March 2017 (Austin’s hottest) was world’s 2nd-hottest on record, NASA scientists say

Global map of the March 2017 LOTI (land-ocean temperature index) anomaly shows that much of the United States was also relatively warmer, but Alaska was instead cooler than the 1951-1980 base period. Photo provided by NASA

 

Last month was not only Austin’s hottest March on record, the third month of 2017 was the second-warmest March for the whole planet since modern record-keeping began 137 years ago.

Scientists at NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York analyzed global temperatures and found that last month was 1.12 degrees Celsius warmer than the average March temperature 1951-1980.

RELATED: Warmest March in Austin extends stretch of above-normal temps 

The hottest March on record was March 2016, when scientists found global temperatures 1.27 degrees Celsius warmer than the 1951-1980 base average temperature.

Although March 2017’s temperature was 0.15 degrees Celsius cooler than the year before, the month was 0.2 degrees Celsius warmer than any previous March, scientists said.

For those skeptical of the numbers, NASA said its monthly analysis by the GISS team “is assembled from publicly available data acquired by about 6,300 meteorological stations around the world, ship- and buoy-based instruments measuring sea surface temperature, and Antarctic research stations.”

NASA does note that “monthly analyses are sometimes updated when additional data becomes available, and the results are subject to change.”

March 2017 was the warmest on record at Camp Mabry, Austin’s main weather station, just edging out March 1907, Lower Colorado River Authority meteorologist Bob Rose told the Statesman’s Marty Toohey earlier this month.

The record average of 68.6 degrees in spring’s first month followed a winter that was also the warmest on record.

Toohey reported that the record at Camp Mabry for the warmest first three months of the year had been 61.5 degrees, also set in 1907. The average temperature for the first three months of this year was 63 degrees at Mabry.

At Austin’s other weather-monitoring station, Austin-Bergstrom International Airport, the average three-month temperature this year has been 61.9 degrees, surpassing 1990’s previous airport record of 59.6 degrees..

“It has been the warmest first three months start to the year on record,” Rose said. “And not just by a little, but by a lot.”

How our not-so-polar winter polarized Republicans, Democrats on climate change

Photo by Ralph Barrera

This past winter was the warmest on record in Austin, a remarkable period during which more than a quarter of the days at Austin-Bergstrom International Airport topped 80 degrees. (!!!) Such an unusual winter was lovely but, in the context of global climate change, naturally raised the question of what to make of it.

A recent study suggests Democrats and Republicans see such weather quite differently – and that such weather tends to make them double down on their natural inclination to accept or reject climate science.

The study, “Is it hot in here or is it just me? Temperature anomalies and political polarization over global warming in the American public,” found that “political polarization over global warming is more pronounced in states experiencing temperature anomalies.” The study was conducted in 2013-14, so it doesn’t take this winter into account. And some findings will not exactly surprise Texans.

Yes, the research confirmed, conservatives are generally leery of climate science, liberals generally accepting its conclusions – and it may all be the media’s fault.

Researcher Jeremiah Bohr of the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh did unearth some potentially interesting findings, though. Chiefly, unusually hot or cold weather intensifies one’s predisposition toward climate science: “Republicans are less likely to conform to the scientific consensus on global warming during very cold or very warm periods while Democrats display the opposite trend.”

Bohr also found that, among Republicans, skepticism of climate science is a uniting force that grows stronger as the temperature diverges from the norm. In a typical year, moderate Republicans tend to be less inclined to reject climate science than their tea party peers. But during unusual weather, warm or cold, the views of the center-right and the right converge. (Perhaps it could even bring House Speaker Joe Strauss and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick together.)

Per Bohr: “… we see that both kinds of Republicans converge in their global warming beliefs during extreme temperature anomalies but diverge during more seasonable temperature conditions.”

Bohr also found that media framing could feed the political hardening of opinion during weirdly warm or cold seasons. During those seasons, climate science tends to get more coverage. (Hi, everybody!) And the coverage, Bohr wrote, tends to be filtered through the lens of how liberal or conservative an outlet is, “discount(ing) or affirm(ing) temperature anomaly as an indication of global warming.”

“This,” Bohr continues, “could plausibly explain why disagreement between Democrats and Republicans widens during periods of greater temperature anomaly, as Democrats are likely exposed to greater amounts of opinion within the scientific mainstream while Republicans are likely exposed to disproportionate amounts of climate contrarian messages.”

(Commence jabs at CNN, Fox News and MSNBC in 3, 2, 1 … and now, on to the American-Statesman in 3, 2, 1 … can someone lend me a very tiny violin?)

For what it’s worth: Climate scientists say that seasons like this past winter are not, in and of themselves, proof that the planet is warming and that man is contributing to that warming. But state Climatologist John Nielsen-Gammon said this winter’s temperatures are in line with a long-term warming that Texas has been experiencing since the 1970s, a time Nielsen-Gammon said was unusually cool. University of Texas climate researcher Kerry Cook told the American-Statesman that this winter was also the kind of winter Central Texans can expect more of – along with more extremely hot days, drought and sudden deluges.

The comments section is now open for business. Y’all have fun.

LCRA meteorologist’s data backs up our suspicions about Austin’s so-called winter

Travis Ramos of Bastrop paddleboards on Barton Creek during unseasonable warm weather in the low 70s on Saturday December 17, 2016. "It's a pleasant surprise in the middle of winter," Ramos said. JAY JANNER / AMERICAN-STATESMAN
Travis Ramos of Bastrop paddleboards on Barton Creek during unseasonable warm weather in the low 70s on Saturday December 17, 2016. “It’s a pleasant surprise in the middle of winter,” Ramos said. JAY JANNER / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

“The perception this February’s weather has been unusually mild is quite accurate,” said Bob Rose, a meteorologist with the Lower Colorado River Authority, who has put our suspicions into numbers.

From Feb. 1 through Feb. 20, the average temperature at Camp Mabry is 9.3 degrees above normal, according to Rose. That’s the fourth-warmest Camp Mabry ever has been over that part of the year, according to records going back to the 1930s. At Austin-Bergstrom International Airport, the average temperature has been 11.9 degrees above normal — the second-warmest on record.

Stretch that out to the entire winter to date (which includes December), and the rankings stay the same. Camp Mabry is experiencing the fourth-warmest winter on record. The airport is going through its second-warmest winter on record, Rose said.

Texas had been in a La Niña since fall, which tends to mean weather that’s hotter and drier than normal. But the Highland Lakes, Central Texas’ main source of water, remain full. The National Weather Service declared an end to La Niña in early February, and with its end, “The chance for drought in Central Texas this spring and summer appears low,” Rose said.

Still, Central Texas will be heading into spring following one of the warmest winters in history.

“With no real cold weather expected over the next week, I don’t expect (the historic) rankings to change much by month’s end,” Rose said. “We are definitely on pace for one of the warmest, if not the warmest February on record.”

Could we actually be headed for a cold winter, multiple freezes?

Conventional meteorological wisdom — based on generally understood climate science — suggests Central Texas is in for a winter that is hotter and drier than normal. That is usually what happens when a La Niña settles in and surface temperatures at the equatorial Pacific are cooler than average.

Jim Spencer
Jim Spencer

The KXAN weather team has another take on the situation, however.

Chief meteorologist Jim Spencer said a closer look at Central Texas data yielded another possibility. Meteorologist David Yeomans looked at three decades worth of data in search of “some analog years to justify this forecast,” Spencer said. Yeomans found that weak La Ninas, such as this one, actually have delivered cooler-and-wetter-than-normal conditions to Central Texas. And more days of snow and ice than usual.

David Yeomans
David Yeomans

This is the point at which readers should keep in mind that a forecast is not a prediction; Spencer, as insightful as he is, has not traveled back in time with the technology to fight SkyNet, defeat Nazis or give iron-clad stock tips. But, he said, the odds of a cold winter and snow days are higher than generally acknowledged — particularly the odds of ice and snow.

“The official projections may prove to be accurate, but we have reason to believe it might actually be a colder winter than people are expecting,” Spencer told the American-Statesman. “Of course, here, a trace of freezing drizzle or snow flurries are considered a winter storm!”

 

Frosty morning to develop into sunny, mild Monday afternoon; rain may return Wednesday

National Weather Service
National Weather Service

Austin forecast for Monday: On the second day of spring, Mother Nature reminded us of what we largely missed this winter.

A few minutes after midnight this morning, the National Weather Service issued a bulletin advising Central Texas residents about frost and freezing temperatures overnight. The cold, wintry air would be turning residual moisture from recent rains into frost on vegetation, so the weather service was encouraging residents in the Hill Country and other parts of Central Texas to protect sensitive outdoor plants and bring animals inside overnight.

As of 5 a.m. the temperature at Austin’s weather station at Camp Mabry was 39 degrees, but the good news is, it’s only going to get warmer. Monday’s outlook calls for sunshine with a high near 69, which is 30 degrees warmer than it is now, the weather service says. Clear skies continue at night, with a low temperature dropping to around 47.

Tuesday temperatures will rise to a more spring-like 77 degrees as south breezes of 10 to 15 mph kick up to 20 to 25 mph in the afternoon, with gusts as high as 30 mph. Warm Gulf air delivered by the south winds will keep nighttime low temperatures a comfortable 62 degrees but windy, forecasters say.

With the morning temperature at 37 degrees, fog rises up from Lady Bird Lake on Monday, March 21, 2016 as a fisherman casts his line into the water. (Laura Skelding / American-Statesman)
With the morning temperature at 37 degrees, fog rises up from Lady Bird Lake on Monday, March 21, 2016 as a fisherman casts his line into the water. (Laura Skelding / American-Statesman)

On Wednesday, clouds increase a little but the high temperature will climb to near 82, with south-southwest winds of 15 mph gusting as high as 20 mph. At night, a 40 percent chance of rain enters the forecast as the skies become mostly cloudy. The arrival of the cold front will be noticeable by the shift in winds from the warm southerly breezes to the 20 mph gusts coming from the north.

Temperatures return to the upper 60s on Thursday.


Statesman Weather app keeps Central Texans forewarned

The all-new American-Statesman weather app is available for iPhone and Android devices. Statesman Weather features include radar, a 7-day forecast, real-time severe weather alerts, as well as the latest weather news and social sharing. Download for free in the Apple iTunes and Google Play stores by searching for “Statesman Weather.”

Polar air keeping Austin chilly, dry by day, freezing at night; sunny weekend ahead

National Weather Service
National Weather Service

Thursday forecast for Austin: Polar air pouring into the Central United States will be keeping things chilly and dry in the Austin metro area for the rest of the week.

Thursday’s high temperatures will top out around 58, slightly cooler than normal, but with lots of sunshine, the National Weather Service says. At night, the clear skies continue but the low humidity will contribute to a below-normal low around 33 or possibly colder.

The freezing temperatures at night mean residents should bring pets and potted plants inside for the night and be aware of possible problems with outdoor pipes.

On Friday, the sunshine persists and the  high temperatures remain below normal around 60. The nighttime outlook calls for a 20 percent chance of showers after 1 a.m.; the additional cloud cover will push low temperatures higher to around 39, the weather service says.

Clear skies and crowded roads greeted Austin commuters this morning. (Ricardo B. Brazziell / American-Statesman)
Clear skies and crowded roads greeted Austin commuters this morning. (Ricardo B. Brazziell / American-Statesman)

Early Saturday, rain chances linger at 20 percent before 7 a.m. before giving way to mostly sunny skies and a closer-to-normal high near 62. Saturday night looks clear, with a low around 37, forecasters say.

The warmest day in the weekend outlook will be Sunday, which is expected to see temperatures reach 68 with light and variable southwest winds of 10 to 15 mph in the morning. The nighttime low should be around 40, the weather service says.


Statesman Weather app  keeps Central Texans forewarned

The all-new American-Statesman weather app is available for iPhone and Android devices. Statesman Weather features include radar, a 7-day forecast, real-time severe weather alerts, as well as the latest weather news and social sharing. Download for free in the Apple iTunes and Google Play stores by searching for “Statesman Weather.”

Blustery morning opens chilly Friday; look forward to warm Sunday, Monday

National Weather Service
National Weather Service

Friday forecast for Austin: Hold on to your hats, it’s a blustery morning so far in Austin.

The National Weather Service outlook for Friday calls for sunny skies with a high only around 54, several degrees below normal. The north-northwest winds that have kicking around your lawn decorations will produce gusts as high as 25 mph, the weather service said.

At night, winds will diminish under clear skies but with an overnight low near freezing, around 33 degrees.

Austin will likely wake up to frosty conditions on Saturday morning, which is expected to be sunny, forecasters say. The high temperature will stay in the mid-50s near 56. At night, the low temperature will drop to the mid-30s.

A warming trend begins on Sunday and extends into Monday, with daily peak temperatures rising to between 65 and 70 degrees.

But Austin being Austin, the warming trend vanishes as quickly as it arrived, as temperatures on Tuesday drop to a sunny high of only 57.