HOUSTON – Snow is rare in Houston, but every once in a while Mother Nature wants to remind us of who’s in charge.
The winter of 1895 was just such an occasion. A powerful winter storm dived into an already frigid Texas on Valentine’s Day and dumped feet of snow across the South. Houston picked up a whopping 20 inches of snow. To this day, it stands as the most snow the city has ever received.
Jimmy Fowler, a meteorologist at the Houston/Galveston National Weather Service office, said the storm started out as rain the day before Valentine’s Day in Houston but changed to snow overnight.
"By 9 a.m., on Feb. 14, there was already a foot of snow in the city of Houston, and then we kind of had a continuous snow throughout the rest of the day," Fowler said. "By midnight on the night of Feb. 14th, we had 19 inches of snow and then we had squeaked out one additional inch on Feb. 15."
The typically warmer weather of Houston makes it hard for the little bit of winter precipitation the city gets every so often to accumulate. In 1895, however, there had already been a couple of rounds of cold air move through the region ahead of the snowstorm.
"The low temperature from Feb. 7 through basically Feb. 19 of that year was either at or well below freezing," Fowler said. "So we were very cold for a long while."
Houston was not alone in the unusual snowfall. Nearby Galveston, Texas, picked up 15 inches of snow, according to Fowler. Beaumont, Texas, nearly 90 miles northeast of Houston, was buried in 28 inches of snow. Lake Charles, Louisiana, about 140 miles northeast of Houston, got 24 inches of snow.
Fowler said this record will be a tough one to beat in Houston.
"I mean, the second-largest snowstorm that we have goes back to 1960 with 4.4 inches of snow," Fowler said. "So this 20 inches of snow is leagues and bounds greater than even the second-placed storm."
The massive 1895 snowfall did not stick around for long, though.
"In Houston fashion, just a week and a half later, we had highs up into the mid-70s," Fowler said. "So, you know? It was winter in Houston."