January 11, 2021

East Texas Enjoys And/Or Despises Its Biggest Snow In Years

A rare snowstorm blanketed parts of Texas, Louisiana, and Mississippi this weekend with more snow than some communities have seen in decades. The unusually robust winter storm left behind snow from western Texas to northern Alabama, bringing a brief dose of winter to an otherwise temperate region. 

The story behind this system is largely "right place at the right time." It takes the perfect ingredients coming together just right to allow precipitation to fall as snow even in colder climates, but it's that much harder to get the ingredients for snow to line up across the far southern reaches of the United States. It's just tough for cold air to overcome the warmth of the southerly winds that dominate this region of the country. Freezing rain and the occasional bout of sleet are more common once you get close to the Gulf of Mexico. 

Cold air briefly managed to win out for a change and it brought a healthy dose of snow to areas certainly not used to it. Waco, Texas, recorded 4.4 inches of snow on Sunday, which was their largest one-day snowfall total in 39 years—it hasn't snowed like this there since January 13, 1982. In fact, this was the city's fifth-largest snowstorm since records began at the airport there in 1930.

This morning's snowfall analysis from the National Weather Service showed a remarkable blanket of snow stretching from the Front Range to northern Alabama, where some folks saw a dusting of snow before precipitation switched over to rain. More than half a foot of snow fell across parts of western Texas. 

There's a weird data glitch on the map above that makes it looks like the border between Texas and Louisiana around the Toledo Bend Reservoir saw something like a foot of snow. That's just some wonkiness in the National Weather Service's data. For posterity's sake, here's NWS Shreveport's map showing snowfall totals in that area:

See? It's a good amount, but not that much. They wish! (Or, maybe not.)

Usually a southern snowstorm like this would make it all the way across the south and affect Georgia and the Carolinas, too, but this system wasn't long for this world. The low that produced the system fell apart into a disjointed mess of clouds and showers before it could bring any hint of January to the rest of the southeast.

After a couple more chilly nights, temperatures will rebound to the 50s and 60s across the winter-afflicted areas through the rest of this week.

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I graduated from the University of South Alabama in 2014 with a degree in political science and a minor in meteorology. I contribute to The Weather Network as a digital writer, and I've written for Forbes, the Washington Post's Capital Weather Gang, Popular Science, Mental Floss, and Gawker's The Vane. My latest book, The Skies Above, is now available. My first book, The Extreme Weather Survival Manual, arrived in October 2015.