Frigid start to 2018: Rain, freeze possible in Austin on New Year’s Eve


Highlights

Central Texas on Friday will likely see more of the sun again after a string of days marked by cloudiness.

Buoyed by warm southern winds and sunshine, temperatures in Austin could hit 52 on Friday and 66 on Saturday.

But a cold front is to arrive Saturday night, and by Monday the daytime high might rise to only 35 degrees.

Nobody is saying snow, but the New Year’s Eve forecast includes a chance of freezing rain — a dim echo of what the National Weather Service had anticipated on Dec. 7 before Central Texas got a rare dose of white stuff.

Even if the flake news turns out to be fake news, you should bundle up in your warmest winter apparel if you’re leaving the house Sunday night to ring in the new year.

“It’ll be very cold and windy,” said Cory Van Pelt, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service, which is calling for at least a 20 percent chance of rain on Sunday and frigid northerly breezes of 10 to 15 mph.

Temperatures at the stroke of midnight on New Year’s Eve in Austin could be as low as 33 degrees.

“We’re talking about a wind chill of around 20 degrees near midnight, even down to the teens,” Van Pelt said.

RELATED: New Year’s Eve ball drop explained

Of course, it wouldn’t be Austin weather if we didn’t see conditions this week swing from miserably gray skies with temperatures in the 30s to sunshine and milder warmth in the mid-60s.

Central Texas will likely see more of the sun on Friday after a string of days marked by chilly cloudiness. Buoyed by warm southern winds and increasing sunshine, temperatures in Austin could rise to near 52 degrees on Friday and then climb as high as 66 on Saturday.

Saturday’s unseasonably warm weather, though, will be short-lived: An invasion of Arctic air behind a cold front will wallop much of Texas later that evening, forecasters said. The front will generate a 30 percent chance of rain on Sunday across the eastern parts of the Hill Country and in the Austin metro area, the weather service said.

“As the cold air spreads southward, there will be a chance for rain to mix with or change to freezing rain,” weather service forecasters said in a bulletin Thursday.

But as of Thursday, no one is expecting snow on New Year’s Eve.

Bookmark statesman.com/weather and download the Statesman’s weather app

The weather service’s historical data, which goes back to the 1890s for Austin, shows that New Year’s Eve is much more likely to get rain than snow. Austin has never gotten snow on Dec. 31 except for 0.2 inch in 1946 and a trace in 1957. But Austin has gotten measurable rainfall in 20 percent of the New Year’s Eves on record. The highest amount of rain that fell in Austin on a New Year’s Eve was 2.39 inches in 1978.

Any forecast calling for a combination of rain and freezing temperatures, though, isn’t good news for drivers heading home from watching fireworks or New Year’s Eve parties.

“Unfortunately, it’s one of those events that is low-probability but high-impact,” said Troy Kimmel, a University of Texas meteorology lecturer and forecaster.

So will weather stop the city of Austin’s plans for food, family fun and fireworks on Vic Mathias Shores on New Year’s Eve?

“We’re monitoring the weather situation,” city spokeswoman Alicia Dean said. “Our biggest concern is the safety of visitors” and whether road conditions could make travel into downtown too dangerous, she said.

“If it’s just cold, the event will likely go on,” Dean said, adding that it would take extreme weather conditions, such as heavy freezing rain, to force the city to cancel “Austin’s New Year” party, which begins at 3 p.m. Sunday and concludes with a fireworks finale at 10 p.m.

RELATED: 5 things to know about New Year’s celebrations around the world

The weather service expects any precipitation — whatever form it takes — to end on New Year’s Day as the cold front moves out and drier air moves in.

Forecasters anticipate mostly sunny skies but freezing temperatures in Central Texas on the first day of 2018. North winds of 15 mph, with gusts as strong as 25 mph, could make even the daytime high of 35 degrees in Austin feel more like 26.

Despite the predicted biting wind chill amid teeth-chattering temperatures, Austin has seen colder openings to the new year. The coldest New Year’s Day in Austin was 90 years ago, when temperatures in 1928 sank to a record low of 17 degrees. That day, the mercury only managed to reach 25 degrees, the coldest high temperature recorded in Austin for Jan. 1.



Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Local

Jury deliberates in Onyeri trial linked to shooting of Judge Kocurek
Jury deliberates in Onyeri trial linked to shooting of Judge Kocurek

A federal jury will reconvene Thursday morning to continue deliberating in the trial of Chimene Onyeri, whose fraud and racketeering charges have been tied by authorities to the shooting of Travis County State District Judge Julie Kocurek. Deliberations lasted a little more than an hour Wednesday before the jury elected to go home for the night. In...
FORECAST: Sunshine, mild temps to reach 80; cooling to 56 overnight
FORECAST: Sunshine, mild temps to reach 80; cooling to 56 overnight

Thursday forecast for Austin: You might want to grab a hoodie or a light jacket before you head out in the morning. Temperatures across Central Texas as of 6 a.m. were largely in the upper 40s and low 50s. Although the passage of a cold front Wednesday brought unseasonably cooler temperatures, Austin is expected to reach a mild high of 80 degrees in...
Dump truck driver fled after North Austin crash that severely injured man, police say
Dump truck driver fled after North Austin crash that severely injured man, police say

A dump truck driver fled after he was involved in a crash on Interstate 35 that was reported early Monday, Austin police said. The driver, 30-year-old Elieser Samora, is charged with failure to stop and render aid after an accident involving serious bodily injury. A 28-year-old man had severe brain damage after the crash and is currently in critical...
Abbott asks disgraced congressman to foot bill for special election
Abbott asks disgraced congressman to foot bill for special election

Gov. Greg Abbott wants Blake Farenthold to foot the bill for a special election the governor has called to replace the disgraced former congressman. Abbott on Wednesday sent a letter to Farenthold, a Corpus Christi Republican who resigned from Congress in early April amid sexual harassment claims, demanding that he cover all costs for the upcoming...
Police: Former Adidas employee stole $2,600 from Round Rock store
Police: Former Adidas employee stole $2,600 from Round Rock store

A former employee of an Adidas shoe store at the Round Rock outlet mall has been accused of stealing $2,600 from the store, an arrest affidavit said. Frank Rodriguez III, of San Marcos, was charged with theft, a state jail felony punishable by up to two years in jail. An Adidas regional loss prevention manager told police he found $2,600 missing from...
More Stories