Stories from Texas

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March 8, 2017

Texas Weather is Never Normal

By: W.F. Strong

When Admiral Perry arrived at the North Pole, according to legend, he said, “Must be a cold day in Amarillo!” He was referring of course to the old Texas saying that there is nothing between Amarillo and the North Pole but a barbed wire fence.

Amarillo and the Panhandle are not just famous for arctic fronts and blue northers. They are well known for wind in general. Chicago is not really the king of windy cities; Amarillo is. The Weather Channel says that Amarillo is the windiest city in America. In fact four of the top ten windiest cities in America are in Texas – Amarillo, Lubbock, Abilene and Corpus Christi. It’s tempting to add Austin for other reasons. Windy weather is why Texas is by far number one in wind energy, producing more than twice as much as number two, Iowa.

Another common saying in Texas is this: “If you don’t like the weather, just wait a minute.” We are a region that can have the heater on in the morning and the air conditioner on at noon, only to turn the heater back on at night. In weather, we are bi-polar. I like the post floating around the net these days that goes like this: “Mother Nature says: You can’t squeeze all the weather in the world into one week. Texas says: Hold my beer and watch this.”

And then, it’s not uncommon to see signs in Texas during the summer that say: “Satan called. He wants his weather back.”

Here’s another Texas expression I love: “It’s hotter than a fur coat in Marfa.” See if you can’t work that one into conversation someday soon.

Despite the persistence of the claim that you can fry an egg on the sidewalk, it is never actually hot enough to fry an egg on the sidewalk. It does get hot enough to bake cookies on the dash. I’d much rather have dashboard cookies than sidewalk eggs, anyway.

My brother Redneck Dave used to be annoyed that Freer often reported the highest summertime temperature in the state. He said “I know for a fact that they keep their town thermometer in an oil field pipe yard. That ain’t right.” He seemed to think they were unfairly winning a weather Emmy of some sort – best performance in heat.

Much of Texas is known for being dry. Dry as a bone, they often say. A West Texas rancher once told me, “God ain’t much of a rainer out here, but he was mighty generous with the stars.”

And they have sandstorms in West Texas so intense that they leave sand drifts behind. In some years they have to shovel snow in the winter and sand in the summer. I bet sometimes they get to do this on the same day.

Farmers I knew as a kid would say that south Texas was so hot and dry that the “trees were whistling for the dogs.” Gotta love farmers. Humor as dry as the land.

Eventually droughts are broken and the rain comes. Then we have “gully washers and toad stranglers.” Or old timers say, “It’s raining so hard the animals are startin’ to pair up.”  The great meteorologist Isaac Cline got it right when he said: “Texas is a land of eternal drought interrupted occasionally by Biblical floods.”

Houston is not known so much for rain or drought, but for humidity. It is a giant sauna much of the year. I doubt Houston would be the economic powerhouse it is if it weren’t for air-conditioning. In 1900, there were less than 50,000 Houstonians. Won’t be too long before there will be 7 million people in the greater Houston area. What happened in the last century? The invention and perfection of air-conditioning. Coincidence? I think not.

Somewhere in Houston they should have a big statue of Willis Carrier, 100 feet tall, right off the Gulf Freeway. Willis would reside comfortably inside a huge glass display case, which would be air-conditioned, of course.

In Texas we define ideal weather as Chamber of Commerce weather. It may not be unique to Texas, but it is a common expression here. But honestly that weather is rare. Most of the time I visit a Texas town for the first time people tell me, “the weather isn’t usually like this.” But from my experience it is. Texas weather is never actually normal.


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