Houston 101

Six Ways Houstonians Get Ready for Fall

You think it can't happen here, but you, my friend, are dead wrong.
You think it can't happen here, but you, my friend, are dead wrong. Photo by Denise Mattox
In other parts of the country, fall is in relative full swing. The chill of evening temperatures in the 50s and 60s, the scent of the first seasonal fire and leaves just beginning to edge brown and gold are drifting southward ever so slowly.

Here in Houston, September isn't fall no matter what the autumnal equinox has to say about it. Our first hints of fall are temperatures that go from the upper 90s to the mid 90s along with racks and racks of Halloween decorations. That's about it.

So, what do we do here to ready ourselves for autumn?

Cover swimming pools (but not hot tubs).

Lots of people in Houston have pools, but a smaller percentage actually heat them. Pool season in Houston runs from roughly May through the first of October, so we are winding it down right now. And in preparation, people begin to cover their pools for winter. No need to drain them. They aren't freezing. But, nothing is more annoying that cleaning bags full of leaves out of a pool in the dead of winter in Houston. It's just depressing.

Hot tubs, on the other hand, will remain delightfully available all year long. On those 60-degree evenings (in December?), they are quite pleasant in fact.

Pay close attention to the tropics...like every day.

Hurricane season, statistically, has ended for Houston. After September 24, the chances of a hurricane hitting the Texas coast drops dramatically thanks to a change in climatology for the region. But, we are all highly attuned to the weather around here, particularly tropical weather. With recent Tropical Storm Imelda doing her worst, it's no wonder. The all clear sign for us typically doesn't come until our first real cool front (more on that in a moment), which may or may not arrive in September — more likely not.

Complain about and consume pumpkin spice products.

The only thing people like to do more than drink or eat stuff made from pumpkin, cinnamon and nutmeg is to complain about stuff made from pumpkin, cinnamon and nutmeg. You might even find someone clutching a Starbuck's cup filled with a seasonal beverage bemoaning how hot it is and what a waste pumpkin spice anything is on us here in southernmost confines of the United States. It won't stop them from drinking it, mind you, or asking grocery store people where they can find pureed pumpkin or candles that smell like burning pine needles, but they will probably hate themselves for it.

Cover their homes in fall colors since the yard isn't cooperating.

Gourds are everywhere, man. We are pretty sure the gourd sellers of America are run by the mafia given the sheer number of places that stock the odd looking squash. Still, when you see them stacked on the porch of your neighbor's house right about now, don't be shocked. The Halloween decor is coming, but before that comes the brooms that smell like cinnamon and shabby chic scarecrows and oh so many pumpkins. It's as if people think the more they wish for fall, the more they will force Mother Nature to abandon the summer stranglehold and give us the go ahead to pull that sweater out of moth balls.

Wear shorts.

But, since no one needs a sweater right now — not even that super skinny girl who wears one outside even when it is like 95 degrees — there are always shorts...and flip flops. Hell, you might get away with them on a particularly balmy day in December, but right now they are essential. While other parts of the country are considering their Ugg collection (we kid you not), we are trying to figure out if we can wear a pair of shorts on casual Friday.

Wonder if we will ever get a cool front.

Being weather obsessed, there are two absolute hard and fast rules about Houston. First, when we are in the worst part of summer, the number of photos of car temperature gauges showing highs in triple digits will climb faster than the mercury in the thermometer. Second, by mid September, people begin begging and pleading for the first cool front of the year. We sometimes wonder if the concept of human sacrifice during Samhain was done to beg the gods for mercy from the stifling heat of summer. There is a point where a high temperature of 85 is considered a great victory.

Hey, summers around here can get desperate.
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Jeff Balke is a writer, editor, photographer, tech expert and native Houstonian. He has written for a wide range of publications and co-authored the official 50th anniversary book for the Houston Rockets.
Contact: Jeff Balke