The Cool Fronts, The Wild Fires and the High Pressure Shuffle
With apologies to Bruce Springsteen for a weak attempt at borrowing his album title, the truth is our weather has been about as crazy and out of control as a three-hour rock show, except instead of booming speakers, girls flashing the stage and a ring of pot smoke hanging over the arena, we have tropical storms, ultra-dry air and the haze of wildfire smoke hanging over central Texas.
Unfortunately, there appears to be little relief from the former in an effort to eliminate the latter over the next few weeks. Mixed in with that bad news is also some good news in the form of cooler weather, but there are many of us who would trade a few more weeks of heat for some much-needed rain.
At the moment, the weather is rather pleasant, dry and breezy. We got our first taste of autumn weather with a cool front that blew through over the weekend, dropping temperatures nearly 20 degrees from a week ago. Normally, our first cool front of the year doesn't make it all the way to Houston until around the third week of September, but we'll just be thankful for small favors.
With the welcome relief from the heat came an unfortunate side effect: drier air and windy conditions, which are ideal ingredients for wildfires. With a record drought already gripping the entire state, it is no wonder we've seen massive wildfires break out throughout central Texas, in particular.
The irony is that the tropical storm we were almost certain would bring us rain last weekend (we only got a sprinkling on Sunday) actually caused our area to be drier and even more vulnerable to fires. What many thought would be at least a bit of help with our drought only enhanced it.
Tropical storms act like vortexes, sucking up all the moist air in the surrounding regions to fuel them when they aren't sitting over water and siphoning it from the ocean. As Tropical Storm Lee moved incredibly slowly onshore and drifted across Louisiana, it sucked the moisture right out of Texas and brought with it high winds, with 50 mile per hour gusts across the state.
That's a nasty hurricane hitting Louisiana this weekend if the model is right.
In addition, the high pressure that brought us so much stifling heat over the summer has reasserted itself over Texas and, while the heat may have mostly dissipated (we may see some upper 90s, but we probably have had our last 100-degree day for the summer) thanks to our first cool front, the dry air, drought conditions and wildfire danger will continue with a vengeance until we see some substantial rain.
The best threat of that comes in the form of a tropical disturbance in the Bay of Campeche. Right now, it's just a mass of thunderstorm activity, but if it remains over the warm waters of the Gulf, it could become another tropical storm or even a hurricane. The European forecasting model, which has been one of the most reliable this year, brings a fairly strong hurricane into Louisiana this weekend -- a terrible scenario for a rain-soaked Louisiana and drought-stricken Texas. But with that high pressure in charge, it is doubtful a storm will make its way to our coastline because high pressure, particularly a ridge this strong, will block the path of any moving low-pressure system like a tropical storm.
In a word, sigh. The brutal summer of drought and fire rages onward with little end in sight. At least we can say it's a little cooler, but that isn't saying much.
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