Do I really have to go back to the distance thing? Really? Fort Hood is between Waco and Austin, wrapped around Killeen and Copperas Cove. Killeen is where they're having the trial for the Fort Hood shooter guy. Or where all the reporters are staying, anyway. Copperas Cove is where Heisman Trophy winner Robert Griffin III (fellow Baylor Bear) is from. It is pretty close to Austin--maybe an hour's drive away, and the same to Waco. (Waco is in that 200,000 population range, remember.) It is not close to Dallas. It's over 2 hours' drive away. More, if you have to drive through Dallas because your small town is north of the big city. Texas has a lot of big cities. Authors should take a look at a map and see which ones are near your mythical location. And maybe take a little look at the size of towns.
However, this blog is going to be about the Texas climate.
Most people understand that Texas is hot. But a lot of them don't seem to realize just what that means. One thing it means is that summer lasts a really long time. My daughter grew up in central Texas. After her marriage, she and her husband both went to Carnegie-Mellon University in Pittsburgh--the one in Pennsylvania, not the one in East Texas--to earn their doctorate degrees. And every year in August she complained, because August was not the hottest month of the summer. It was already starting to cool off there in Pennsylvania, and that, according to her, is just wrong.
In Texas, August is unbearable. It's the hot month. It's the month those of us on the coast--and inland--really start watching for hurricanes. We just replenished all our hurricane supplies for this year.
|Galveston seawall before Hurricane Ike|
That said, I want you all to realize that it's still hot in September. I have lived in most parts of the state of Texas, including the northernmost. (The Panhandle is never called North Texas. It's the Panhandle. North Texas is the Dallas-Fort Worth area east to Commerce, west to about Weatherford and north to the Oklahoma border.) The Panhandle has actual winter. The rest of Texas pretty much doesn't. At least not more than a couple of weeks at a time. Anyway, even in the Panhandle, it's still hot in September. Like over 90F/32C. And it doesn't cool off until the first blue norther (not "northerner") comes through. Anywhere in Texas. And most of those don't barrel through until late September. Sept. 19 to 21--near the actual fall equinox--is the most common date. And they don't cool it off much. It might drop the afternoon high in Amarillo to 60F/16C, but it will warm up again.
Fall doesn't arrive gradually in Texas. It's: hot, hot, hot, hot, hot, blue norther--really chilly--reasonable. Sort of. That first cold front sort of shocks fall into existence. And in the Panhandle, sometimes it was a real shocker. It might actually freeze overnight. And all the fruitless mulberry trees would lose their leaves at once. Whump. The back yards of the people with the trees would suddenly be ankle-deep leaves. There is a saying--not the one about "wait 10 minutes and the weather will change." The saying I'm referring to is: "The only thing between Texas and the North Pole is a couple strands of barb-wire fence." Which is true. Think about it. It's Great Plains all the way from the Rio Grande through Canada to the ice pack. There are no mountains. No lakes, really. Maybe a mesa or two, but they tend to be isolated. So when those cold fronts start rolling south, there is nothing to block those winds. Hence the way fall arrives. All at once, riding on a blue norther. But it doesn't stay cold. Or even chilly.
The nicest fall month in Texas is October. Usually the trees do not lose their leaves until November. They're starting to sort of change in October, but usually, October is gorgeous. The temperatures are in the 70s. The sun is bright--I've had some bad sunburns in October because I don't protect myself like I should. I forget that it's still, well, the sun. And I'll go to one of those afternoon Baylor football games and just blister.
One other thing you might want to be aware of: Most drinking water in Texas comes from lakes. It's surface water. So in the summer, the water gets warm. When I was growing up, my brother always had an old soda bottle in the refrigerator filled with water. I always drank all mine up and forgot to refill it. Which is probably why I like room-temperature water better these days. Thing is--room temperature water is cooler than the water that comes out of the tap. Tap water in August is seriously warm. Especially in the more southern areas. In the Panhandle the water actually gets cold in the winter and warmish in the summer. Outside the Panhandle, it gets cool in the winter and really warm in the summer. There are some springfed water systems, with cold water year round, but most places need more water than the springs can provide, hence the surface water sources. And even if it is ground water, keeping it in a water tower warms it up. So in the summer, making someone sit in a cold water bath isn't a punishment. It's pretty pleasant, actually.
The first trees start blooming in February, when the redbuds break out.That's when spring starts, essentially. The temps start reaching 80F/27C and 90F/32C by April and May. If it stays below 95F/35C all the way to the end of May, it's been a cool spring. But really, Texas spring is more like summer elsewhere. Hotter than summers elsewhere. And winter tends to be sporadic.
|Norfolk Island pine in my backyard|
|Prickly pear after an ice storm|
You don't know from week to week whether you will need a heavy coat or short sleeves. A blue norther can blow through any time from September to April, and it can snow any time from November through April, depending what part of the state you're in. It snowed on election day two different years when we lived in Clarendon. Our youngest son's last year of college at Texas A&M Galveston, he never wore anything but shorts and flip-flops. Galveston's winter is much like San Francisco's summer. And we're only 1/3 of the way around the coastal bend...
|Yes, MY orchid. One of them. Outside.|
However, once it warms up, it stays hot. Yeah, the weather might change after 10 minutes, but it's not going to stop being hot. A thunderstorm will actually make things hotter, once the rain stops. Because after, it's so humid, the heat index goes up. And yes, just like wind chill is a real thing, heat index--which takes into account the humidity--is very real. Galveston Island does not get the extreme heat of much of the mainland, because the water in the Gulf keeps things cool. It's never topped 100F/38C here, though it does get to 95F and 97F frequently. However, the humidity is so high--being surrounded by water--that the heat index is often over 100F.
In the Panhandle, where it's dry, the high temp during the day will often push 100F/38C, and then drop 30 degrees or more overnight. It usually doesn't drop more than 30 degrees unless a cold front is moving through, but it could. In the rest of the state, it usually doesn't drop more than 20 degrees. In fact, air conditioning can't cool much more than 20 degrees, so despite the setting, if it's 100F/38C outside, it's probably not going to get much better than 80F/27C inside. And if it was 100F yesterday afternoon in Dallas, it's probably going to be 80F at dawn the next day. Unless that blue norther is moving in... On the coast, there isn't that much change between the high and low temps. Galveston is rarely more than 9 degrees cooler in the morning than it was yesterday afternoon. Sometimes, it only drops 7 degrees, almost never as much as 10 degrees. Unless a cold front moves through. So that's a thing that's different from one part of the state to another. And it only gets warmer as you move farther south.
The daughter (the one formerly in Pennsylvania) now lives in Georgia, at about the same northerliness as Dallas. However, Georgia doesn't seem to be as hot as Texas, and I'm not sure why. Yes, it's hot, but it's a gentler heat. Seems to be a more humid heat. And the temps don't seem to get as high. I have my childrens' towns plugged in to my weather app so I can see how hot it gets there--and the Georgia town is consistently cooler than the Texas cities. One reason might be the sun. Although I don't know how the sun could be different--it sure seems like it is. My sister lived in Taiwan with her family for three years, and she said that although it was hot and humid there, the sun did not seem like so much of an enemy there. It didn't beat down so hard, make things so much hotter. It does here.
|Hill County Courthouse-with the flagpole|
This is why there are so many white vehicles in Texas. White is measurably cooler than any other color, including light colors like silver. And I don't know what idiot decided that all pickup truck interiors should be black or dark brown. Have you ever sat on black leather after the sun's been bleeding in the windshield for 4 hours? Yikes! The fella just bought him a new pickup, and he couldn't find any with a lighter colored interior. (He hasn't driven a pickup in 12 or 14 years, but he didn't like any of the sedans available. So he went back to a pickup.) (A red one. Go figure.)
Again, these blogposts do not intend to be in any way scientific or comprehensive in their discussion of Texas. I'm just trying to explain a little about how things really are here and encourage writers to research the things it might not occur to them to research. And I'm hoping maybe to take those naked facts that research often offers up and try to show how those facts actually feel. What they can mean when you have to live them. I hope it helps.