Under bright blue skies, Austin finally emerged from Mother Nature’s ice box on Wednesday as temperatures soared above freezing for the first time since Dec. 31.
Daytime temperatures at the city’s main weather station at Camp Mabry surpassed the 32-degree mark about 10 a.m. and by 3 p.m. hit 56 degrees — almost 35 degrees warmer than when the day started — according to National Weather Service data.
Forecasters said Central Texas would endure one more brief freeze before dawn Thursday as low temperatures were expected to sink into the 20s throughout the Austin metro area. But the weather service’s outlook for the next several days includes sunshine and even a chance for Austin to get as warm as 68 degrees on Sunday.
Since the beginning of the cold snap on New Year’s Eve, Mabry and the weather station at Austin-Bergstrom International Airport have matched or broken a couple of daily records.
Temperatures at Mabry on Tuesday tied the previous record for the date of 32 for the coldest high temperature, while the same reading at the airport set a record for the coldest maximum temperature there. A low of 24 at the airport also tied the record for minimum temperatures on Jan. 2.
The weather service recorded some of the chilliest temperatures of the hard freeze early Wednesday:
- Temperatures at the Austin airport sank to 15 degrees, breaking the previous daily cold record of 17 set in 2002.
- The coldest location in Travis County on Wednesday morning was near Jonestown, where it was 12 degrees at 8 a.m.
- Florence and Liberty Hill reported 14-degree temperatures, the coldest readings in Williamson County.
- Hays County temperatures got as cold as 15 degrees just northwest of San Marcos.
- Bastrop County temperatures slipped to as low as 14 degrees in Cedar Creek, Wyldwood and Camp Swift.
But Wednesday also marked the beginning of the end to the season’s harshest cold snap so far. Daytime temperatures Thursday in Austin should peak around 51 degrees and then rise to 56 on Friday, forecasters said.
The weather service’s weekend outlook calls for temperatures rebounding to a seasonable high of 60 degrees by Saturday, before culminating in above-normal warmth on Sunday. Mild southern winds will help keep temperatures above 50 degrees Saturday night, but they also typically bring Gulf humidity, which will contribute to a 20 percent chance of evening rain.
Rain chances persist in the Sunday forecast, but temperatures are expected to reach 68 — several degrees warmer than normal for this time of year.
The thawing of the region opens the door to Central Texas’ perennial January nemesis: cedar fever.
“The pollen is stored in the tips of the male cedar trees and should be released over the course of the next few weeks,” he said. “This is mostly due to dryness and any wind will certainly carry that pollen and disperse it.”
The latest forecast calls for south-southwest winds of 10 to 20 mph on Sunday with gusts as high as 25 mph.
Depths of the deep freeze
Here are some low temperatures Wednesday across Central Texas recorded by the National Weather Service:
22 degrees: Camp Mabry in Austin
21 degrees: Lakeway
20 degrees: Round Rock
20 degrees: Wimberley
20 degrees: Pflugerville
17 degrees: Sunset Valley
17 degrees: Buda
16 degrees: Georgetown Municipal Airport
15 degrees: Bastrop
2 homeless men found dead in Houston amid freezing weather
Houston police said two homeless men have been found dead amid freezing weather and officials are trying to determine if the cold snap caused the deaths.
Police spokeswoman Jodi Silva said officers worked to help get homeless people to shelters as freezing temperatures continued Wednesday.
Police Chief Art Acevedo said two bodies were located before dawn Tuesday, in separate locations, and the deaths were believed to be the result of “exposure to frigid weather.”
The causes of death are pending. Officials with the Harris County Institute of Forensic Sciences didn’t immediately return messages Wednesday.
A hard freeze warning issued by the National Weather Service expired Wednesday morning for Houston where temperatures were expected in the upper 40s by the afternoon.
— Associated Press