Bundle up: Cold front hitting Texas soon
Visitors of Houston's Hermann Park enjoy the snow, though the winter blast left two million Houstonians without power. Photo by Mark Felix, Texas Tribune.

Most of Texas could be hit with near or below-freezing temperatures later this week as some of this winter’s coldest weather to date approaches the state.

Forecasters in Houston believe it will go from near 80 on Wednesday to high temperatures below 50 degrees on Thursday and Friday. Houston and the surrounding areas could also see hazardous driving conditions.

“It could transition to a very messy winter mix that could include rain, sleet, or freezing rain, maybe even some snow,” meteorologist Tim Cady told Houston Public Media.

The Dallas-Fort Worth area will likely see temperatures drop to the low 20s with the outskirts of the metroplex dipping into the teens, said National Weather Service meteorologist Sarah Barnes.

“It will be a fairly decent cold snap, especially compared to previous cold fronts we’ve seen so far,” she said. “Thursday will be the coldest day. But temperatures should get up in the mid-to-upper 30s. So we should be above freezing temperatures at some point in the day.”

In San Antonio, forecasters think daytime high temperatures likely won’t reach the 50 degree mark Thursday or Friday. The city could see freezing or near-freezing temperatures Wednesday through Saturday evenings, Texas Public Radio reported Tuesday. The National Weather Service is also forecasting a possible wintry mix for Austin and the surrounding areas Thursday night into Friday morning. Temperatures there will likely dip below freezing.

And while El Paso and Far West Texas residents saw highs in the 60s earlier this week, they should expect temperatures to drop into the mid-20s.

What may be the season’s worst cold snap comes as Texans still remember winter storm Uri. That February 2021 storm plunged most of the state into subfreezing temperatures for days and led to widespread power outages that left millions without power and caused hundreds of deaths.

This week, the state’s grid operator, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, sought to ease some concerns about its readiness. In a statement Tuesday, ERCOT said “321 out of 324 electric generation units and transmission facilities fully passed inspection for new winterization regulations.”

Unlike last winter’s storm however, this week’s cold front isn’t expected to be as long or as severe, Barnes said.

“We’re not expecting anything really similar to the winter storm that we experienced last year, that was pretty abnormal,” she said. “It’s not impossible to get temperatures that cold and for it to be subfreezing all day, but it takes a really good shot of cold arctic air to get us to stay below freezing all day.”

Despite ERCOT’s assertions that the grid is up to the task, some state lawmakers said they want to see some proof.

“What I hear from my constituents is that people still don’t have confidence in the stability of our grid to withstand another major storm, and there is good reason,” said state Rep. Gina Hinojosa, D-Austin, who is hosting a Webinar next week with ERCOT CEO Brad Jones.

Still, Hinojosa added, “I don’t think anybody expects the grid to go down with this winter storm that’s coming. It nowhere compares to the 60 or 70 hours below freezing we experienced during Uri.”