WEATHER UPDATE: Hard freeze warning in effect till noon Wednesday

Jan 16, 2018

9 p.m. update: A hard freeze warning is in effect for Central Texas until noon Wednesday, the National Weather Service announced.

Temperatures are expected to be in the 20s and high teens overnight and through all of Wednesday morning. As of Tuesday night, there is a zero percent chance of rain for the next 48 hours. 

Hard freeze conditions will kill sensitive vegetation and could cause damage to exposed pipes. People and pets without shelter will be vulnerable to hypothermia. 

Precipitation has ended across the area, but motorists throughout the Austin metro area are still reporting seeing patches of ice on the roads. 

3:40 p.m. update: Since midnight, eight people in Travis County have been hospitalized due to cold-weather exposure, officials with Austin-Travis County EMS said Tuesday.

Austin-Travis County EMS also responded to the following other calls since midnight as well:

11:55 a.m. update: Wintry precipitation has started to taper off in western parts of the Hill Country, but icing on roadways remains a serious risk for drivers, the National Weather Service said.

A winter storm warning remains in effect throughout the Austin metro area until 6 p.m. Tuesday and forecasters agree with public safety officials who are discouraging drivers from using the roads except in emergencies.

Subfreezing temperatures remain in place across Travis, Hays, Williamson, Bastrop and Caldwell counties throughout Tuesday and into the night. Austin could see temperatures climb to slightly above freezing Wednesday afternoon, only to sink back into the 20s at night, forecasters say.

Forecasters anticipate dry but cold conditions Tuesday night. But temperatures stuck below freezing, much of ice, sleet or snow that falls Tuesday could remain on surfaces well into Wednesday.

Minimum temperatures won’t get above freezing until Thursday, as warmer south winds are expected to replace the frigid northern breezes. The high winds already have made temperatures in the upper 20s feel more like the teens in some places.

10:55 a.m. update: Snow flurries are being reported across Travis County, including near Sunset Valley, Shady Hollow to the south, in north-central Austin and at the downtown offices of the American-Statesman on the shore of Lady Bird Lake.

10:10 a.m. update: The heaviest bands of freezing rain and sleet that have pelted Central Texas since early Tuesday morning are heading east, away from of the Interstate 35 corridor, but the resulting ice accumulation has made driving hazardous, forecasters say.

Public safety authorities, including Austin Police Chief Brian Manley, are asking residents to avoid driving unless it’s an emergency.

“We are seeing more road closures and crashes every hour,” Manley said via Twitter. “Stay off the roads, unless it’s an absolute emergency. The ice patches will sneak up on you.”

According to the National Weather Service, “precipitation across this region should gradually end northwest to southeast from noon to 3 p.m.”

But forecasters warn that even if the wintry mix of precipitation ends in the afternoon and early evening, some roads could remain icy into the night because temperatures will stay near or below freezing until at least Thursday.

Meanwhile, sleet and possible snow flurries are being reported to the weather service from across the Austin metro area, including parts of Lakeway in western Travis County, and Cedar Park and Wolf Ranch in southern Williamson County.

8:55 a.m. update: Doppler radar images indicate that clouds producing light to moderate rain are moving across Central Texas from south and west of Austin.

The Austin metro area, including Travis, Williamson, Hays, Bastrop and Caldwell counties, remains in sub-freezing temperatures and under a winter storm warning until 6 p.m.

University of Texas meteorology lecturer and veteran forecaster Troy Kimmel says weather conditions are likely to worsen over the next few hours as the rain clouds cross the Interstate 35 corridor.

Ice has formed over most bridges and overpasses throughout Austin. Police said they had responded to as many as 20 wrecks Tuesday morning.

“Based on what I am seeing now, the situation will worsen over the next couple of hours in the Austin metro area and especially in areas to the south,” Kimmel said in his morning newsletter.

The National Weather Service’s forecast for Tuesday calls for a chance of snow and sleet before 3 p.m., a slight chance of freezing rain and sleet between 3 p.m.and 5 p.m., then a slight chance of snow and sleet after 5 p.m.

Temperatures are expected to peak around 29 degrees, more than 30 degrees colder than normal.

North winds of 15 to 20 mph, with gusts as high as 25 mph, could result in wind chill values as low as the teens.

Tuesday forecast for Austin: For Central Texas – including the Austin metro area counties of Travis, Williamson, Hays, Bastrop and Caldwell – a winter storm warning is in effect until 6 p.m. Tuesday, the National Weather Service says.

After a strong cold front pushed through Central Texas overnight, delivering high winds and widespread rainfall amounts of as much as a tenth of an inch, the region could see a mix of freezing rain, sleet and possibly snow, forecasters say.

Accumulations of ice – also up to a tenth of an inch in some areas – and damaging gusty winds will pose the greatest threat to drivers during the Tuesday morning commute. 

As of 4 a.m., temperatures at Austin’s main weather station at Camp Mabry had sunk to 30 degrees and were expected to stay below freezing even after sunrise. Such temperatures are at least 30 degrees below the historical normal for this time of year.

The fierce northerly winds of 15 to 30 mph throughout the day also could sink wind chill readings into the teens and possibly the single digits in some areas, the weather service says.

At night, forecasters are calling for clear skies but temperatures will drop to around 20 degrees.

National Weather Service meteorologist Nick Hampshire said much of the Austin area had seen less an a tenth of an inch of precipitation by 4 a.m.

“We’re seeing some off-and-on precipitation, mainly freezing rain mixed with sleet,” Hampshire said. “Ice accumulation has been confined to elevated surfaces, but as temperatures begin to fall we expect roads to freeze shortly.”

Angel Flores, Austin’s Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Management spokesman, said authorities in Austin were waiting for ice to begin accumulating shortly after 4 a.m.

The weather service’s extended forecast calls for temperatures to warm up only slightly on Wednesday before the region fully thaws out by Thursday. 

Wednesday: Sunny with a high near 38. Partly cloudy at night with a low around 24. 

Thursday: Partly sunny with a high near 44. A 20 percent chance of showers at night with a low around 35. Warmer south-southwest winds of around 5 mph. will replace cooler air.

Friday: A 20 percent chance of showers with a high near 58.  Mostly cloudy at night with a low around 48. Persisting south winds of 5 to 10 mph. will continue to drive temperatures higher into the weekend.

Saturday: Mostly sunny with a high near 71. A 20 percent chance of showers at night with a low around 53.

Sunday: A 40 percent chance of showers and thunderstorms with a high near 67. Mostly clear at night with a low around 39.