Texas winter storm may bring power outages, flooding to Houston area

Conditions are just right for severe weather as a cold front blitzes the state. 

Photo of Dan Carson
An oil tanker approaches the Galveston jetties and then into the Houston Ship Channel at sunrise.

An oil tanker approaches the Galveston jetties and then into the Houston Ship Channel at sunrise.

Mabry Campbell/Getty Images

We've been banging the drum about a potentially dangerous winter storm approaching the Lone Star State since Friday, and the day has finally come for the arrival of a harsh front harboring potential severe weather in the Houston area.

Across northern Texas, cities are preparing emergency resources for a potential dusting of snow while here in the Bayou City, rain, potential flooding and possible tornadic activity loom large on the menu this morning and afternoon. The National Weather Service has issued a wind advisory for Harris County and a wide swath of Southeast Texas from 6 a.m. CT through 6 p.m. warning Texans of sustained winds of 20-30 mph with gusts reaching up to 45 mph in some areas. This strength of wind is capable of downing tree limbs, blowing away un-secured patio furniture and causing local power outages, according to the NWS, which is advising residents to secure outdoor objects and use extra caution while driving. Those operating high-profile vehicles such as vans or trucks should be especially conscientious while cornering on elevated highway overpasses. 

Conditions are such Tuesday that even the fastidiously "hype-free" experts at Space City Weather are concerned with what the day's weather holds.

"Some cold fronts come into Houston like lambs. Today’s front, however, will be a lion," wrote Space City's Eric Berger in his Tuesday morning writeup.

Berger projects the center cut of Tuesday's severe weather to roll through Harris County from late morning to 4 p.m., with Houston's inner loop bearing the brunt between 2 and 4 p.m.  The worst of the system is likely to shove off the coast by 6 p.m., dumping between one and three inches on the area before its departure. This is a concerning amount of precipitation for a concrete metropolis not engineered to drain off sudden deluges. More concerning, however, is a cocktail of atmospheric conditions making possible tornado formations more likely than usual, according to Berger.

"There is plenty of instability, lift, and shear in the atmosphere today," Berger wrote Tuesday. "A lot of the parameters that we look to for tornadic activity are lighting up, especially for areas along and south of Interstate 10. But with that said, the overall environment is not ideal for a tornado formation...just supportive."

In short, if you can stay home today, it's probably best to sit tight and batten the hatches until this nasty, winter storm-driven system passes. If you have to go out, be safe and drive slow

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