Stories from Texas

Stories from Texas > All Episodes

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.


Episodes

February 14, 2024

Bonnie and Clyde: Star-synced lovers

February the 14th may be one of the more divisive days on the calendar. Though Valentine’s Day is meant to celebrate love — many find it cheesy, commercial, or downright depressing. Others, lean into the holiday. In the latter camp, it seems, were a pair infamous lovers from Texas. Texas Standard commentator WF Strong has […]

Listen

January 3, 2024

New Year’s Eve on Houston Street

Champagne toasts, fireworks, making resolutions, fancy meals… those are just some of the many ways Texans chose to to ring in 2024. Texas Standard commentator WF Strong, however, decided to welcome the New Year by reflecting on the past.

Listen

December 20, 2023

The Gift of the Tidelands

Texas Standard commentator W.F. Strong has a little holiday tradition. Every December he likes to count our collective blessings as Texans by highlighting a great gift to Texas. He says the tidelands were special because the giver didn’t realize how much goodness would continue to flow from them.

Listen

December 6, 2023

La Pitada

554 miles from AT&T Stadium you will find a Dallas Cowboys celebratory tradition that is unique in Texas. You might expect it in Dallas or Arlington, but to find this three decade tradition thriving in a Brownsville neighborhood, is both surprising and heart-warming. It is called La Pitada. Texas Standard commentator WF Strong has more.

Listen

November 9, 2023

Found in Translation

For those with a rudimentary knowledge of Spanish, traveling Texas becomes more interesting because the Spanish names of places reveal, or hint at, their histories. Texas Standard commentator WF Strong has some examples.

Listen

October 25, 2023

On Censorship

A look at the headlines might sometimes give you a sense of déjà vu — haven’t you read or seen this before? Fights over government shutdowns… a looming presidential race that may pit the same candidates against one another. Texas Standard commentator WF Strong has been thinking about this while watching another political debate.

Listen

October 11, 2023

The Legend of La Llorona

All through October, the Texas Standard team is tracking Texas cryptids. As we’ve dug into some of these legends, we’ve noticed a few patterns. First of all, many of the cryptids associated with Texas have roots in Mexico. And there are also some similarities in the back stories of these creatures or characters. Ayden Castellanos […]

Listen

September 27, 2023

‘The Killers of the Flower Moon’ is an Oklahoma story with Texas ties

There’s a much-anticipated film coming out next month. It’s the latest from Martin Scorsese and stars Robert De Niro and Leonardo DiCaprio. Texan Jesse Plemons also has a big role — playing a Texan from history. Commentator WF Strong profiled the story when it was told in a bestselling book with the same name as […]

Listen