February 17, 2017

What is the danger?

There’s a potential for severe weather in Harris County starting as early as Sunday and continuing into next week. According to the National Weather Service <>  (NWS), widespread rainfall amounts of 2-3 inches are possible, with isolated areas receiving up to 6 inches. High hourly rainfall rates could lead to flash flooding.

What you should do:

Residents are encouraged to monitor local media for weather information, particularly before heading out on Monday morning. In the event of street flooding, remember “Turn Around, Don’t Drown <> .” Driving through high water or around barricades on flooded roadways or underpasses can lead to death!

Basic Flood Safety Tips

*     Turn Around, Don’t Drown! ® DO NOT DRIVE through high water and DO NOT DRIVE AROUND BARRICADES! Just 2 feet of water can sweep your vehicle away.

*     DO NOT WALK through flood waters. Just 6 inches of moving water can knock you down.

*     If your home floods, STAY THERE. You are safer at home than trying to navigate flooded streets on foot.

*     If floodwaters rise around your car but the water is NOT MOVING, abandon the car and move to higher ground. Do not leave the car and enter MOVING water.

*     STAY AWAY from streams, rivers, and creeks during heavy rainfall. These areas can flood quickly and with little warning.

*     MOVE important items – especially important documents like insurance policies – to the highest possible floor. This will help protect them from flood damage.

*     DISCONNECT electrical appliances and do not touch electrical equipment if you are wet or standing in water. You could be electrocuted.

Where you can learn more:

Forecasts: National Weather Service <;gov/hgx>

Local Traffic: Houston TranStar <>

Preparedness & Emergency Information: <>

Twitter: @ReadyHarris <>      Facebook <>      Mobile App:

Posted February 14, 2017 8:10:45 AM CST


A line of storms is moving through our area today, as has been widely publicized.

This storm could bring isolated rainfall of up to 5 inches, small hail, brief tornadoes, and damaging winds.

Precautionary/Preparedness Actions:

  • Remove all outdoor items which can be tossed by strong wind gusts and secure them.
  • Be prepared to stay in place if dangerous flooding occurs in your area.
  • Communicate with your family ahead of time about what to do if you cannot get home at a normal time due to the heavy rain.
  • Have a plan to shelter-in-place at your home, school or business.
  • If a TORNADO WARNING is issued for your area, seek shelter immediately in an interior room on the lowest floor possible.
  • If a FLASH FLOOD WARNING is issued for your area, seek higher ground and avoid travel until the warning expires.

You can report severe weather events to the National Weather Service here:

Please also share any weather observations with us on Twitter using the any of the applicable hashtags on this page when you mention @fbcoem.

COLLEGE STATION, Jan. 26, 2017 – Although there have been several outbreaks in recent weeks, the overall number of tornadoes in the United States in 2016 was below average and it was one of the quietest years since modern record keeping began in 1954.  The reason is likely that a strong El Niño occurred in the first half of the year, says a Texas A&M University severe storms expert, but conditions could soon revert back to normal.

Chris Nowotarski, assistant professor of atmospheric sciences at Texas A&M, says an El Niño (warm water in the Central Pacific which tends to influence weather patterns worldwide) has been associated with a decrease in tornadic activity over the area called Tornado Alley that stretches from the southwest to the Midwest and where tornadoes most frequently form.  This likely resulted in the 901 tornadoes in 2016, which is below the yearly average of 1,061.

While that is good news, the better news is that only 17 deaths in the U.S. occurred from tornadoes, the fewest in 30 years. In 1986, 15 tornado fatalities occurred nationwide, the lowest amount ever.

In regard to Texas, the state had 90 tornadoes reported in 2016, which was well below the average number of 140 in a typical year, says the Texas A&M professor.

“The El Niño is thought to generally weaken southerly winds off the Gulf of Mexico into the Southern and Central Plains area,” Nowotarski explains.  “That means less moisture and wind shear which are crucial for tornadoes to form.

“Another reason is that we did not have a large-scale tornado outbreak over a two or three-day period that we often have, and those often account for a significant portion of total tornadoes.”

While it is difficult to predict what will happen the rest of the year – for instance,  February of 2016 was the deadliest month, killing seven people, instead of April and May which are the months most often associated with tornado deaths – there are some clues to look for, Nowotarski adds.

“We’ve shifted to a weak La Niña this year (colder waters in the Central Pacific), which suggests more typical numbers of tornadoes could occur this year,” he says.

“In fact, we’ve already had more than 90 tornadoes this year, which is well above the average number of 39 by this time, so indications are the tornado season is off to a strong start.”

AUSTIN – The Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) is urging Texans to monitor weather forecasts and take necessary precautions as winter weather and cold temperatures sweep across the state. According to current weather forecasts, parts of North Texas, West Texas and the Texas Panhandle could experience wintery precipitation, including light to moderate snow accumulations, beginning late Thursday through Friday. Drivers are advised to monitor weather conditions before hitting the road, and if possible, avoid unnecessary travel in the impacted areas.

“It is important to remember that winter weather threats can emerge quickly, including low temperatures and freezing precipitation, which can endanger Texans if they’re not prepared,” said DPS Director Steven McCraw. “DPS is calling on individuals to monitor weather and take the necessary steps to stay safe and avoid hazardous conditions posed by any possible weather threats this week and throughout this winter season.”

This week and throughout the winter season, the Texas State Operations Center will continually monitor weather conditions and maintain close contact with state agencies and the National Weather Service.

DPS offers the following tips for staying safe during possible winter weather this season:

  • Monitor local weather broadcasts and follow up-to-the-minute weather conditions, at
  • Purchase an all-hazards weather radio for up-to-date warnings, watches, forecasts and other hazard information.
  • Sign up for your local emergency notification system.
  • On icy roads, drive slowly, increase distance required for stopping, and avoid using cruise control.
  • Watch for downed trees and power lines across roads. If power is out, treat all intersections as four-way stops.
  • Make sure your vehicle is properly maintained before any trip.
  • Keep your gas tank full.
  • Avoid traveling when sleet, freezing rain or snow is predicted, and monitor road conditions by visiting or by calling 1-800-452-9292.

Winterize your vehicle by checking the battery, windshield wipers (including appropriate freeze resistant-fluid), tire pressure, tire tread, fluid levels, and lubricate door and trunk locks to prevent freezing. In addition, here is a list of emergency supplies drivers can keep in their vehicle:

  • Blankets/sleeping bags, extra clothing, gloves and a hat.
  • Cell phone, radio, flashlight and extra batteries.
  • First-aid kit and pocket knife.
  • High calorie, non-perishable food and bottled water.
  • Bag of sand or cat litter to provide traction for tires.
  • Windshield scraper, tool kit, booster cables, tow rope and a shovel.

harris-county-freezing-alert-logoWhat is the danger?

The National Weather Service is forecasting a strong cold front may drive temperatures below freezing for 2-9 hours on Friday morning. The greatest risk of freezing weather will occur north of Interstate 10 and residents in that area are urged to take basic precautions against the impacts of extreme cold.

What you need to do:

Cold weather preparation is easy – just remember to protect the “Four P’s”: People, pets, pipes, and plants.


  • Keep warm, stay inside if possible.
  • If you need to go out, dress in layers and wear hats, gloves and an appropriate coat.
  • Avoid overexertion, as cold weather puts added strain on your body.
  • Observe heater safety:
    • Never place a space heater on top of furniture or near water.
    • Keep heat sources at least 3 feet away from furniture and drapes.
    • Never leave children unattended near a space heater.


  • Bring pets inside, and move other animals or livestock to sheltered areas.
  • Keep adequate food and water available.


  • Disconnect outdoor hoses, drain and store in protected area.
  • Wrap exposed faucets and pipes – including those outside the house or in unheated crawl spaces, attics, garages and other areas.


  • Bring potted plants inside or store in garage near interior wall to provide extra warmth and protection from wind.
  • For cold-sensitive outdoor plants, put down extra mulch and consider covering with a cloth fabric of some kind to shield the plants from wind and frost.

Protect yourself from carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning by installing a battery-operated CO detector and never using generators, grills, camp stoves, or similar devices indoors.

It is also recommended that you prepare your car for winter.  Have your car serviced and add antifreeze as needed.

For More Information:

National Weather Service Forecast Office

Federal Emergency Management Agency –



Texas A&M UniversityCOLLEGE STATION, Dec. 6, 2016 – With a major cold air mass expected to cover most of the U.S. this week – as much as 75 percent of the country could experience temperatures below freezing — it’s the time of year when the term “polar vortex” creeps into the news.  But it might be a good time to set the record straight on what exactly a polar vortex is, says a Texas A&M University weather expert.

John Nielsen-Gammon, Regents Professor of Atmospheric Sciences who also serves as the State Climatologist, says the term polar vortex has been around longer than you think.  It was first identified in the 1850s, and fully mapped out by the 1950s, but only in the last five years or so has the nomenclature made it to popular culture, perhaps in a misleading way.

Technically, he explains, a polar vortex is a large zone of very cold air that forms around the Arctic or Antarctic. There are actually two polar vortices – one at around 65,000 feet high, the other at about 25,000 feet high, called the tropospheric polar vortex and the one that most often affects the U.S.

The term itself has a “Star Wars” ring to it that evokes images of death stars and ray guns.  Instead, Nielsen-Gammon believes, it’s just an unfamiliar term for something very familiar.

“Most people already know that the jet stream carries storms from west to east, especially in the wintertime,” says Nielsen-Gammon.

“They might also have a sense that the jet stream is not just something over the United States — it circles the globe.  The tropospheric polar vortex is nothing more than this jet stream making a complete loop around the hemisphere, plus all the cold air inside the loop.”

So is the polar vortex the jet stream, or is it the cold air inside the jet stream?  “It’s both,” says Nielsen-Gammon.  “It’s sort of a chicken and egg thing.  Whenever you have deep cold air, you’ll have a jet stream along its edge, and whenever you have a jet stream, you’ll have cold air on one side.  You can’t have one part of the polar vortex without the other.

“In the Northern Hemisphere, whenever we’re north of the polar jet stream, we’re inside the polar vortex, and the weather is cold.  This happens a lot in the winter, as the vortex expands and waves in the jet stream occasionally cause the jet stream to swing even farther south.”

While waves like that are common, the coldest weather is usually underneath the very center of the polar vortex, he points out.  “Usually the center of the vortex is somewhere over the Arctic Ocean, or northern Canada, or Siberia.  On rare occasions, though, it can temporarily swing down over the northern United States,” Nielsen-Gammon says.

That’s what happened in the winter of 2013-2014, Nielsen-Gammon adds.  The center of the vortex made it all the way across the northern United States border, so cold air covered a large portion of the United States.

“This week will be different,” Nielsen-Gammon says.  “The problem this time is that the jet stream is unusually wavy.  Rather than forming a round vortex about the North Pole, it will look more like a squeezed water balloon, with one lobe extending into the northern United States and the other into Siberia.

“What’s noteworthy about this cold snap arriving in a few days is that it could be the coldest air of 2016 and set temperature records in many locations,” he adds.    “That’s because the traditionally cold months of last January and February were very mild across much of the country.”

Also, Nielsen-Gammon says, the cold air is arriving rather early in the season.  “I would not be surprised to see many record lows occur in the central United States this week.”


What is the danger?

A strong weather system entering the region starting Friday will deliver large amounts of rain across the area through Monday. The National Weather Service forecast indicates rainfall totals through the weekend could average 2-4 inches across Harris County with 8 or more inches possible in isolated locations .

The potential for street flooding will increase as rainfall totals may rise Sunday night-Monday morning. Floods are the leading cause of weather related deaths.

What you need to do:

Residents should monitor local media and the National Weather Service (NWS) for weather updates throughout the weekend. Various watches and warnings may be issued by NWS as conditions change.  Residents should follow all safety instructions in these messages.

In the event of street flooding, remember “Turn Around, Don’t Drown.” Driving through high water or around barricades on flooded roadways or underpasses can lead to death!

Know the NWS Flood Lingo!

  • Flood Watch: Be Prepared: A Flood Watch is issued when conditions are favorable for a specific hazardous weather event to occur. A Flood Watch is issued when conditions are favorable for flooding. It does not mean flooding will occur, but it is possible.
  • Flash Flood Warning: Take Action! A Flash Flood Warning is issued when a flash flood is imminent or occurring. If you are in a flood prone area move immediately to high ground. A flash flood is a sudden violent flood that can take from minutes to hours to develop. It is even possible to experience a flash flood in areas not immediately receiving rain.
  • Flood Warning: Take Action! A Flood Warning is issued when the hazardous weather event is imminent or already happening. A Flood Warning is issued when flooding is imminent or occurring.

Basic Flood Safety Tips

  • Turn Around, Don’t Drown! ® DO NOT DRIVE through high water and DO NOT DRIVE AROUND BARRICADES! Just 2 feet of water can sweep your vehicle away.
  • DO NOT WALK through flood waters. Just 6 inches of moving water can knock you down.
  • If your home floods, STAY THERE. You are safer at home than trying to navigate flooded streets on foot.
  • If floodwaters rise around your car but the water is NOT MOVING, abandon the car and move to higher ground. Do not leave the car and enter MOVING water.
  • STAY AWAY from streams, rivers, and creeks during heavy rainfall. These areas can flood quickly and with little warning.
  • MOVE important items – especially important documents like insurance policies – to the highest possible floor. This will help protect them from flood damage.
  • DISCONNECT electrical appliances and do not touch electrical equipment if you are wet or standing in water. You could be electrocuted.

Where you can learn more:

Forecasts: National Weather Service Houston-Galveston

Flood Safety: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

Local Road Conditions: Houston TranStar

State Road Conditions:

For more information visit the Regional Joint Information Center website at

Texas A&M UniversityWarm temperatures in Texas dominated the month of October, so much so that the month will go down as the fourth warmest October in the state’s history, according to figures from the State Climatologist at Texas A&M University.

John Nielsen-Gammon, Regents Professor of Atmospheric Sciences at Texas A&M who also serves as State Climatologist, says the month also tied for the sixth driest since official record keeping began in 1895.

“So far, we know that 215 records were set all across the state, from Alpine to Amarillo to Brownsville and Beaumont,” Nielsen-Gammon says.

“About 70 percent of those records were set during the period Oct. 16-20.  Every single station reported above-normal temperatures for the month.  The warmest areas relative to normal were the northern Panhandle, the Midland-Odessa area and the area northeast of Dallas.”

Numerous national records have also been set in much of the Southwest, Midwest and Northeast, with many stations recording October temperatures 20 degrees above normal.  Also, many northern cities have yet to record their first freeze, and areas such as Denver had no measureable snowfall in October.

Does it mean another warm winter is in store?

“October’s weather doesn’t mean much going forward, but the combination of a long-term warming trend and a likely La Niña (cooler than normal waters in the Central Pacific Ocean that tend to influence weather patterns) event does mean that winter is likely to be warm across Texas,” he added.

“We’re seeing drought spreading across much of the state, with core drought areas in East Texas and South Texas.  At this point, November is looking quite a bit wetter than October, but the overall outlook for the winter favors drier than normal conditions.”


Texas A&M UniversityStudying hurricane and tropical storm development from three million years ago might give today’s forecasters a good blueprint for 21st century storms, says a team of international researchers that includes a Texas A&M University atmospheric sciences professor.

Robert Korty, associate professor in the Department of Atmospheric Sciences at Texas A&M, along with colleagues from China, Norway, and the University of Wisconsin, have had their work published in the current issue of PNAS (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences).

The team studied storm development from the Pliocene era, roughly three million years ago, and chose that time period because it was the last time the Earth had as much carbon dioxide as it does now, and the changes in climate from it can play a major role in storm formation and intensity.

Using computer models and simulations, the team found an increase in the average intensity during the period and the storms most often moved into higher latitudes – to a more northward direction.

“There seems to be a limit on how strong these ancient storms might be, but the number getting close to the limit appears to be larger during warmer periods,” Korty explains.

“They reached their peak intensity at higher latitudes, following an expansion of tropical conditions with warming. It is consistent with smaller changes in the same patterns that we have observed over recent decades and project to continue over the next 100 years. I think it gives us greater confidence in some trends we are witnessing about how storms may change in future years.”

Researchers today know that the oceans continued to be relatively warm during the Pliocene era, though there has been some uncertainty where waters were warmest.  Their study found that the increase in average intensity and in the poleward expansion occurred regardless of where the greatest change in temperatures occurred in the Pliocene.

Korty says the study adds more evidence “that future storms are likely to be stronger in their intensity and to remain strong even as they move out of the tropics.”

The study was funded by the National Science Foundation.


Fort Bend CountyFORT BEND COUNTY, TX – Since the catastrophic flooding in May of this year, Fort Bend County has provided services to meet the needs of the thousands of residents impacted by the flood. From simple barricades across impassable streets, to rescue and evacuation, to temporary shelter and long-term recovery for the dozens of families actually flooded out of their homes; “business as usual” for Fort Bend County has been far from business as usual.

This past May, a large storm system moved through Texas, drenching the Brazos River watershed just upstream of Fort Bend County. The Brazos River rose to 54.8 feet at the Richmond river gauge, almost four feet higher than any event in the last sixty years. The flood inundated 17% of the county –148 square miles.

“This has been the biggest flooding disaster in the memories of most of our residents,” says Fort Bend County Judge, Robert Hebert, “and its impact is going to be felt in our community for a long time.” The resulting flooding damaged well over a thousand homes out of approximately 50,000 residents affected and forced the coordination of almost 800 rescues.

Many residents received flood insurance payments, FEMA grants, or Small Business Association loans, but that money only helps jump-start their recovery process. The County is now pursuing additional state and federal funds to help residents recover more fully, including funds to help offset costs of construction or sale of the affected property. This is, of course, in addition to the swift actions on the part of the County to ease the tax burden on affected homeowners, waive permitting fees for those who chose to rebuild and pay for contractor support to expedite the recovery process. For some, this will not be enough.

The County has also collaborated with the United Way to facilitate a Long Term Recovery Committee to help meet additional needs of the residents recovering from this disaster. The Long Term Recovery Committee (Fort Bend Recovers) is comprised of non-profits, faith-based organizations, community groups, businesses, and local governments working to find unique solutions for residents, like a furniture donation warehouse and a long-term recovery fund.

The County also opened a first-ever Flood Recovery Center. “We wanted to make it even easier for residents to get the help they needed to recover, so we moved several critical departments under one roof.” Judge Hebert adds, “In total 5 county departments staffed the center for 9 days and helped over a hundred residents get answers to their recovery questions.”

Fort Bend County has only begun traversing the long road to recovery, but with the County Judge, the County Commissioners, and the combined effort of county departments, progress is being made. The strong leadership and collaborative efforts of citizen volunteers, private businesses, non-profit organizations and local governments willing to come together in support those experiencing flood damage, reinforces why Fort Bend County is one of the best places in the United States to live, work and play.