Weather in Texas is only typical for the immediate area involved. Generally, summers are very hot and humid, except in the desert areas of west Texas. Winters are usually mild, but severe ice storms can arrive with little warning. Tornadoes and hurricanes happen with regularity, and native Texans know that just about any type of weather can be found within the state’s borders.
Visitors to Texas during the summer months should opt for loose fitting clothing in lightweight fabrics. Due to the intensity of the sun, any exposed areas should be protected by sunscreen. Care should be taken to avoid heat stroke by drinking extra water, taking “cooling-off” breaks, and, when the temperature is over 100 degrees, remaining inside during the heat of the day.
Air conditioning is a necessary part of summer survival throughout the state, as even many areas that do not see the maximum temperatures are so humid that the temperature feels much hotter than the actual reading. Since nighttime temperatures seldom vary by more than 20 or 25 degrees, wraps are rarely needed to venture out during summer evening hours.
Winter visitors should be prepared for anything. Non-slip soles on shoes are valuable, since ice is common during the winter, especially in the northern areas. Frequent rain during the day freezes overnight, creating slippery conditions for pedestrians and drivers alike. Most dangerous is the so-called “black ice”, patches of invisible ice that can form during the night on freeways, bridges, and walkways.
During spring, autumn, and winter, layering clothing is usually most effective. Temperatures may start out at 30 degrees, warm up to 70 by midday, and then plummet to 15 by nightfall. Such wild fluctuations are difficult for meteorologists to accurately predict.
In the event of hurricane or tornado warnings, visitors should heed the directions offered by officials or weather services. In general, coastal areas are evacuated if a hurricane is about to make landfall. Galveston Island is particularly susceptible, as it lies only a few feet above sea level.
There are only two ways for the public to leave the island, a ferry that runs between Galveston and the mainland east of Houston, and the I-45 Bridge that spans the bay between the island and the area south of Houston. Therefore, evacuation warnings should be taken seriously, and delays should be minimized.
Tornado watches are different from tornado warnings. A tornado watch merely indicates that conditions are such that tornadoes could develop, and it is not uncommon for watches to be issued daily for a week or more. Tornado warnings are issued when a funnel has been sighted. At that point, it is too late to evacuate, and visitors are safer to remain where they are and shelter in place. The safest places to be are in an internal bathroom or closet, a basement, or, in a hotel, a shelter or ballroom.
Windows and external doors should be avoided. Flying glass and debris, and collapsing structures which are usually made of wood or are mobile homes, cause most of the deaths and injuries from a tornado. The power of a tornado can drive a straw through a telephone pole or an automobile through a third story window.
Other potential dangers come from thunderstorms, particularly the possibility of lightning strikes and road flooding. During torrential rain, many areas are prone to widespread flooding, mainly in the low-lying coastal areas, such as Houston, and the rocky Hill Country around Austin. Dike and dam construction has just about eliminated the river flooding that was once common, such as the Trinity River in Dallas that once overflowed its banks almost every year.
While Texas can experience some dramatic weather phenomena, the weather is usually sunny, calm, and pleasant. As part of the Sun Belt, Texas has much milder winters than many states, and the summers, though often hot, can be quickly adapted to if acclimation is taken gradually.