Texas Winter Storm (Ice, Sleet, Snow)

Winter Storm (Ice, Sleet, Snow)

Data Limitations

Long-term records are limited, as ice storm/freezing rain data are very limited due to the complexity of observational accounts (e.g., rain, freezing rain, and snow can occur at a single station during a single event).

Definition and Description

Winter Storm (Ice, Sleet, Snow)

A winter storm is a winter weather event that produces impactful accumulations of freezing rain (ice), sleet, and/or snow (NWS 2018).


Winter storms may include heavy snowfall, blowing and drifting snow, high winds, extreme cold or ice storms. Among the greatest hazards associated with winter storms are traffic accidents. The most extreme instance is a blizzard, which is defined as winds greater than 35 mph, visibility less than ¼ mile, lasting at least 3 hours. New snowfall is not necessary for a blizzard, and blowing snow can similarly obscure visibility.

Winter storms are measured by snowfall accumulation or ice thickness. Winter storms occur in Texas between November and March and are usually created by large low-pressure systems moving rapidly across the country. In Texas, ice storms and freezing rain are a greater threat than blizzards. Access to moisture from the Gulf of Mexico falling over shallow cold air near the surface can produce ice accumulations of two inches or greater with tremendous damage to power distribution.

Historical Data

Snowfall Climatology Toolbox

(Period of record varies by station; ~30-100+ years) Midwestern Regional Climate Center

This interactive tool shows normal (1991-2020) annual and monthly snowfall, average annual number of days with snow totals at certain thresholds, average first and last snow date, and record 1-day snowfall. The map displays normal values while the graph below it shows the variable by year.

1. Position map to area of interest or choose TX in the State Selection drop-down menu on the right. 2. On the top of the screen, select a variable you’re interested in (e.g., Annual Snowfall). Some variables have options on the right side of the screen to select, such as a month to display for monthly snowfall or a snow threshold. 3. For most variables, the map displays the normal/average value for the variable you selected. For Record 1-Day Snowfall, it shows the record value at each point. The legend for the colored points is on the top-right side of the screen. 4. The graph below the map shows more details, such as the values per year instead of an average. Note: The map default shows stations with data from at least 1991-2020. If you’d like to see longer time frames, you can move the slider under the Data Available Since option on the right. When you select a different start year, it will only show stations with available data.

Snowfall Extremes

(Period of record varies by location; up to ~120 years) NOAA National Centers for Environmental Information

This interactive static map shows the 1-day, 2-day, and 3-day snowfall maximums by county.

1. Select the day-length of interest on the top right side of the map. 2. Click on the county of interest for information on the maximum snowfall event on record for your selected time period. 3. A table below the map shows location (by county and station), date of event, and snowfall total details. Click the top of the right two columns to sort by date or value.

Ice Storm Climatology

(1948-2000) Changnon and Karl, 2003 (open access)

These are static images within a scientific report. The analysis includes the average annual number of days with freezing rain (Fig. 2) and month of highest average number of freezing rain days (Fig. 9). Texas typically experiences 1-2 freezing rain events per year, most commonly in January.

To view, click on the Full Text tab and scroll to the bottom of the page where figures are located.

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