Denton County and all of North Texas shivered and slipped through an unusually icy December.
Arctic and Polar air-masses, propelled by Canadian storm systems, allowed sub-freezing air to penetrate deep into Texas several times during the month.
Our average high was 51; average low 28, leaving us with a day/night average temperature of just 39.6 degrees, which was nearly 5 degrees below normal. Our coldest temperature was 14 degrees on December 10th.
Rainfall was one bright spot. We picked up nearly three inches (2.96”), which was .39 above normal for the month. Much of it fell as a mixture of sleet and snow early on the morning of Friday, December 6th. While DFW Airport recorded 2 inches of sleet accumulation, Denton Municipal Airport measured 4 inches. And it was days before traffic and sunshine finally melted the “cobblestone ice” off bridges and overpasses.
North Texas spent 73 hours at or below freezing. Many in North Texas spent much of that time in the dark and cold after losing power from ice-covered tree limbs and power lines. At the height of the power outages, over 800,000 Oncor customers were without electricity. The Insurance Council of Texas estimates ice damage to homes reached $30 million. Other memorable sleet storms were in recorded in February 2003, March 1989, and late December 1978.
In terms of actual freezes, Denton recorded 21 freezes while DFW recorded 19 freezes, the most in 13 years.
Fortunately, our heaviest 24-hour rainfall since May, 1.73” on December 21st, was just rain, albeit a chilly rain, with a high of 49 and a low of 33 that day. Thanks to decent late fall rains, North Texas is no longer in the “drought” category, just “abnormally dry.” Even so, when considering the last three years, we’ve received fewer than 87 inches of rain, making this the driest three-year period since the mid 80’s.
Because there’s no clear signal predicting warmer, colder, wetter or drier conditions than normal, we’ll fall back to a “persistence” forecast. Other than climate norms, there’s no reason to believe we won’t have additional outbreaks of Arctic and Polar air-masses in the months ahead. In fact, the seasonal increase in snow cover in the northern states is likely to accelerate and intensify cold air incursions in January and February.
Brad Barton is Chief Meteorologist of WBAP 820/KLIF 570/99.5 “The Wolf.” Paul Ruekberg, of Newswatch Dallas, contributed to this report. Read his column on Denton County weather each month in The Cross Timbers Gazette newspaper.