People are surprised to hear that it snows in Texas. In fact in the panhandle area and near the border with New Mexico, it’s regularly plenty cold enough for snow. The Northern Plains of Texas have an annual average snowfall ranging between 15 and 30 inches, and clear winter nights see the temperature falling well below freezing.
Snow may not be especially significant, but Texas certainly sees other extremes of weather. Heavy spring rainfalls can lead to flash floods and rivers spilling over their banks. The result of the soaking of the ground is an abundance of vegetation which then, come the dry months which can quickly enter drought conditions despite the earlier rain, means plenty of material dry and ready to feed the wildfires of October.
Texas is in Tornado Alley. Tornadoes, of which there are on average 139 in the year making Texas rank first among tornado states, occur in the late spring when westerly and southerly prevailing winds converge. In addition, tropical cyclones come in from the Gulf of Mexico or overland from the Pacific Ocean. The Lone Star State was also part of the Dust Bowl in the 1930’s, when poor land management resulted in the lifting and carrying of the soil by fast winds. The problems created by drought and wind were not new then, however, and still exist to a certain extent.
Texas is an enormous state and it’s impossible to make sweeping generalisations about its climate. Conditions vary vastly from the west, which is semi-arid, to the east, which is humid subtropical. Particularly between the high plains and the coast, where the weather is gentler and subject to maritime influence, Texas offers very pleasant living conditions – at least never too cold. In the nineteenth century there was no air-conditioning, so we must remember that the recourse to a bearable environment which we take for granted was not at their disposal, and the heat must have been pretty gruelling at times. It would also have been difficult to beat a retreat away from the flies.