This time last week, we were all beginning to wonder if it would ever end. Would the rain stop? Would the water recede? Would our dogs ever poop outside again? Thankfully, the answer was yes to all three (assuming your dog is housebroken). And, remarkably, the former Hurricane Harvey left what felt a bit like an "I'm Sorry" gift in his devastating wake: a refreshing, dry northwesterly breeze that not only made it feel better outside, but helped to push water in swollen bayous toward the gulf.
Over the Labor Day weekend, things began to heat back up again and we all remembered, oh, right, it's still summer in Houston. As humidity began to flow in from the south, we returned to our low 90s for highs and low 70s for lows, typical of an early September in Houston. But it's that time of year when Houstonians continue to watch the tropics warily while hoping for the first cool front of fall. Ironically, these two things are somewhat intertwined.
The official Atlantic Hurricane Season lasts until the end of November, but it is rare for the Texas coastline to be struck by a hurricane after the second week of September, owing to the changing weather patterns in the upper atmosphere and generally cooler weather. Hurricane Ike (September 13, 2008) and Hurricane Humberto (September 13, 2007) were both at the tail end of that window. Hurricane Rita (September 23, 2005) was one of the latest Texas threats from the tropics, but even it missed a Texas landfall, going onshore in extreme western Louisiana; a technicality, to be sure, but it was not a Texas hurricane despite the damage it did in the southeastern part of the state.
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That doesn't mean we don't see tropical moisture. There are numerous examples over the decades of storms into October causing flooding problems throughout the state, typically from the remnants of hurricanes making landfall in other parts of the country or in Mexico. But the reality is that, past a certain point, Texas is pretty much off the hook when it comes to hurricanes, which is why we so eagerly anticipate that first burst of fall — that and the ungodly heat in late August and early September. Thankfully, it is on the way.
As has been forecast for the past few days, we are expecting the first autumn cool front of the year later this week. A fairly strong trough should sweep through the area at some point on Wednesday. While it might bring a few showers or thunderstorms, the chances of rain at this point are only moderate (about 50/50 across the region) and shouldn't last long. Once the front moves through, we should feel a noticeable change, with highs into the weekend only in the low to mid 80s and lows dropping down to near 60. Mornings around here should be downright lovely.
This cool front also holds the key to some much more serious weather concerns for the eastern United States. Hurricane Irma, a powerful storm still way out in the Atlantic, is barreling toward the Lesser Antilles, and the strength of that cool front, and how it behaves once it reaches the eastern seaboard, will determine if Irma makes landfall or recurves out to sea.
Some of the more recent model forecasting is quite disturbing, showing a very powerful category four or even category five hurricane making landfall in Virginia. The confidence in any track beyond about five days is still relatively low, but the trends have been concerning. For now, we will have to hope our cool front helps to keep Irma offshore while bringing us the first pleasant weather of fall.