Top 10 weather events of the decade in southeast Texas

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Monday, December 30, 2019
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We are closing the books on a decade filled with weather extremes in and around Houston. A decade that began with the worst drought in 60 years ended with numerous floods, including the worst rainstorm from a hurricane in United States history. Here's a look back at the top 10 weather events of the 2010s in southeast Texas.

10. February 2011 Arctic Cold Fronts

Two strong arctic cold fronts impacted Houston the first half of this month. The first arctic front arrived before sunrise on Feb.1, dropping the temperature from 70 degrees to 24 degrees by midnight. Low temperatures hit the 20s at Bush Airport for five consecutive days, a feat not accomplished since the brutal cold snap of December 1989. A wave of moisture going over the top of the cold air brought freezing rain to the city on Feb. 4, and the high temperature failed to climb above freezing for the first time since the historic ice storm of January 1997. A second arctic front arrived on the 9th, leading to a "flash freeze" on elevated roadways northwest of Houston. Four more days recorded lows in the 20s at Bush Airport for a total of nine this month. That's Houston's most February days in the 20s since 1895! Unsurprisingly, it hit 80 degrees less than a week later.

9. Warmest Winter on Record Dec 2016 - Feb 2017

We often joke about how we only get two weeks of winter in Houston, but this was truly the year of no winter. Highs were in the 80s for four consecutive days starting on Christmas Eve, setting a new record for the warmest stretch of weather between Christmas Eve and New Year's Eve. The average winter temp of 61.6 degrees made it the warmest December/January/February on record for Houston, and it wasn't even close. February alone was 10 degrees warmer than average, easily making it the warmest February in our city's history.

8. Sealy Microburst - May 23, 2017

Intense windstorms came racing in at almost 60 mph from central Texas, producing a burst of extreme winds that reached speeds up to 100 mph over Sealy. About 75 homes were damaged by the violent winds, resulting in $1 million in damages. Miraculously, only minor injuries were reported.

VIDEO: SkyDrone13 over Sealy

SkyDrone13 over damage in Sealy

7. Halloween Tornado Outbreak and Flood of 2015

A Halloween cold front produced several rotating "supercell" thunderstorms around sunrise that dropped almost a dozen tornadoes southeast of Houston. These tornadoes injured five people and caused nearly $18 million in damages across parts of Brazoria, Harris, and Galveston counties. The slow-moving weather system also dropped up to 14" of rain, flooding some area homes and businesses. Sadly, two people drowned in the floodwaters.

6. December Snow 2017 (Dec. 7-8)

Local weather lore says if we get a hurricane, it will snow the following winter. Whether or not there is solid science to back it up, that's exactly what happened four months after Hurricane Harvey's devastating flood. The snowflakes started flying the evening of Dec. 7 and kept falling until sunrise on Dec. 8. A warm ground caused the snow to start melting on impact, but over 1" of snow stuck to grassy surfaces and rooftops all over southeast Texas. This was Houston's first measurable snow since December 4th, 2009.

RELATED: Rare snowfall delights Houstonians

Texans all over woke up to snow on their streets.

5. Memorial Day Flood 2015 (May 25)

This is the flood that seemingly kicked off a series of floods to hit Houston and southeast Texas in the second half of the decade. It is the first local flood to prompt the issuance of a Flash Flood Emergency from the Houston/Galveston National Weather Service Office. Up to 11" of rain fell on Houston's west side in just under six hours, sending multiple bayous, creeks, and rivers out of their banks and stranding thousands of residents on roadways through the night. It is estimated that 162 billion gallons of water fell over Harris County. Seven people drowned in the floodwaters, and over 6,000 homes flooded.

4. Tax Day Flood 2016 (April 18th)

Less than 1 year after the Memorial Day Flood, an even bigger rainfall hit southeast Texas. Nearly 24" of rain fell over Waller County just west of Houston with over a foot of rain on the northwest side. An estimated 240 billion gallons of water fell over Harris County, flooding over 7,000 homes and 2,700 apartment units. Nine people drowned in the floodwaters. This eventually led to severe flooding downstream along the Brazos River in Fort Bend and Brazoria Counties, which only got worse in May as more heavy rains fell along the river's watershed.

SEE ALSO: ABC13 reporter Steve Campion rescues driver trapped in Tax Day flood

This driver found himself in a dangerous situation. Fortunately, Steve Campion was nearby.

3. Tropical Storm Imelda, September 2019

Tropical Storm Imelda received its name just 15 minutes before making landfall near Freeport in Brazoria County. Even though it was downgraded to a tropical depression just six hours later, it became the fifth wettest named storm on record to hit the contiguous United States. Over 43" of rain fell just east of Houston, with nearly 30" in 12 hours near Winnie in Chambers County. Houston dodged the worst of the floodwaters this time, but thousands of people were caught stranded on local roadways trying to get home from work and school. A final report from the National Hurricane Center has not been completed at the time of this writing, but preliminary estimates are that the storm caused $2 billion in damages and five deaths are directly attributed to the storm.

MORE: Unsung heroes who helped Houston as the waters rose

Houstonians lending helping hands during Imelda

2. Drought of 2011

Texas is no stranger to drought, but the drought of 2011 was in a class of its own. Locally, Houston received just 12" of rain through the first nine months of the year, which is two feet below normal. It was the second driest spring on record, which led to ground-scorching heat the following summer. The mercury soared into the triple digits a record-smashing 46 days, including every day but one in the month of August. On Aug. 27, the temperatures soared to 109 at Bush Airport, tying the all-time record high first established during the great Labor Day heat wave of 2000. Numerous water mains broke across the city as the ground shifted from the lack of soil moisture, and over 10,000 trees perished at Memorial Park alone. Extreme water conservation measures were put into place as the City of Houston was forced to tap into Lake Conroe to meet its water needs. Wildfires were also a major concern, with over four million acres burning across the state of Texas, including the devastating wildfire that tore through Bastrop in Central Texas. Welcome rains returned in October, and the drought was officially busted in the spring of 2012.

1. Hurricane Harvey, August 2017

It's the nightmare we'd all like to forget. Hurricane Harvey's unrelenting rains pounded Houston for nearly five straight days, dropping at least three feet of rain over the entire city of Houston with isolated storm totals of around five feet in Galveston and Jefferson Counties. It is estimated that one trillion gallons of water fell over Harris County alone. Nearly every bayou, creek, and river rose to record levels in our nation's worst rainfall on record. Over 30 people drowned in the floodwaters just in Harris County. Over a quarter million homes flooded and over half a million cars flooded. In addition to the unbelievable amount of rainwater that fell in Harvey, 157 tornado warnings were issued by the National Weather Service over five days, which is more than the previous five years combined. It is estimated that Harvey's rainfall was a 1-in-50,000 year event.


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