2004 Christmas Eve United States winter storm
A satellite image of South Texas and northeastern Mexico on Christmas morning, showing the extent of the snowfall.
(Click on the image and zoom in for place labels)
|Type||Winter storm Tornado outbreak|
|Formed||December 24, 2004|
|Dissipated||December 28, 2004|
|Lowest pressure||964 mbar (hPa)|
|Maximum snowfall or ice accretion||18 inches (45.7 cm)|
|Areas affected||South Central United States, East Coast of the United States|
The 2004 Christmas Eve United States winter storm was a rare weather event that took place in Louisiana and Texas in the United States on December 24, 2004, before the storm moved northeast to affect the coastal sections of the Mid-Atlantic states and New England in the succeeding few days. This was a different storm from the historic event that struck the Midwest and southern Canada around December 23 from another cyclone which preceded this storm. The event involved a thin band of snowfall with unusually cold temperatures for the middle Texas coast, and caused dozens of varied weather records to be shattered. It was the most significant snow for the Texas Gulf Coast, and deep South Texas, since February 1895.
Anticipation of the event
There had been indications for up to a week before the event that a frontal wave in the Gulf of Mexico was expected to track far enough to the south (along roughly the 26th parallel) to lead to snow along the Gulf of Mexico coastline of the United States.
A surface cyclone formed in the western Gulf of Mexico on December 24 and December 28 due to a shortwave aloft, and moved eastward through the western Gulf of Mexico, bringing banded snowfall to the middle Texas coast. The extratropical cyclone moved east, then northeast, tracking across the northern peninsula of Florida early on December 26 before moving about 100 miles (200 km) offshore the Southeast, paralleling the coast. Continuing to deepen, the developing storm moved about 200 miles (300 km) offshore the Mid-Atlantic states, New England, and Atlantic Canada on December 27 before moving out to sea.
Texas and Louisiana
The most noticeable, and unusual, event associated with the storm was the snowfall it produced. Much of the snow fell in southern Texas, along the coast of the Gulf of Mexico, but some snow, albeit less deep, fell across southwestern and southeastern Louisiana. Any snowfall in these areas is extremely unusual, perhaps occurring once every twenty years, and these events are usually airborne flurries which melt on contact with the ground. In many places the snow stuck to the ground and accumulated to an appreciable depth. In Brownsville, Texas, snow fell to a depth of 1.5 inches (3.8 cm), the first measurable snowfall at the city in years, since the Great Blizzard of 1899.
The fact that the snow accumulated overnight on Christmas Eve led to a White Christmas the next morning, something completely foreign to the region. Across all of southern Texas and in southwestern Louisiana, snow fell in places where it had not for anywhere from 15 to 120 years. Near the coast, in Corpus Christi, Texas, 5.2 inches (13 cm) of snow fell, more snow than in all previous recorded years combined. This was also the case in Victoria, Texas, where a significant 13.0 inches (33 cm) fell. New Orleans, Louisiana had its first white Christmas in 50 years. In addition to the unusual occurrence of snow inland, moderate to heavy snow was also reported over the open waters of the Gulf of Mexico. This is the first significant snow fall in Houston since February 12, 1960, when a snowstorm hit central and south Texas with eight to 10 inches of snow.
Some snow totals:
- Alice, Texas: 12 inches (30.48 cm)
- Beeville, Texas: 10.0 inches (25.4 cm)
- Brownsville, Texas: 1.5 inches (3.8 cm)
- Corpus Christi, Texas: 5.2 inches (13.2 cm)
- El Campo, Texas: 11.0 inches (27.9 cm)
- Galveston, Texas: 4.0 inches (10.16 cm)
- Houston, Texas: 1.0 inches (2.5 cm)
- Kingsville, Texas: 6.0 inches (15.24 cm)
- Lake Charles, Louisiana: 1.2 inches (3.1 cm)
- Laredo, Texas: 2.0 inches (5.07 cm)
- Mathis, Texas: 11 inches (27.9 cm)
- McAllen, Texas: 4.0 inches (10.16 cm)
- New Orleans, Louisiana: 0.7 inches (1.8 cm)
- Pearland, Texas: 2.8 inches (7.3 cm)
- Sandia, Texas: 12 inches (30.48 cm)
- Victoria, Texas: 13.0 inches (33.0 cm)
Georgia and South Carolina
Several locations across the Tidewater reported over a foot of snow, with the highest amount of 14 inches (36 cm) reported at Quinby and Tabb. Frontogenesis (strengthening temperature gradient) within the comma head of the extratropical cyclone between the 500 hPa and 700 hPa layers (or 10-20 kft) contributed to the banded snow seen across this region. It led to the snowiest December across the Norfolk area since 1958.
On December 25, 2004, there was light to moderate snows fall across portions of the state, with the highest amount of 2 inches (5.1 cm) falling at Mount Holly.
Southeastern sections of the state saw the snowfall. The highest amount reported was 8.7 inches (22 cm) at East Hampton.
- Extratropical cyclone
- Pre-Christmas 2004 snowstorm that impacted the Midwest
- Surface weather analysis
- National Weather Service Forecast Office, Houston/Galveston, Texas."Public Information Statement". Archived from the original on December 12, 2006. Retrieved 2006-12-01. Retrieved on Dec. 1, 2006.
- Glenn E. Lader. STORM SUMMARY NUMBER 5 FOR MAJOR WINTER STORM. Retrieved on Dec. 1, 2006.
- Glenn E. Lader. STORM SUMMARY NUMBER 5 FOR MAJOR WINTER STORM. Retrieved on Dec. 2, 2006.
- Pamela J. Szatanek. STORM SUMMARY NUMBER 7 FOR MAJOR WINTER STORM. Retrieved on Dec. 2, 2006.
- Timothy Gingrich and John Billet. Operational Considerations of the December 26, 2004 Snowstorm Across Hampton Roads, Virginia and Northeast North Carolina. Retrieved on Dec. 2, 2006.
- The Atlantic Coast Observer Network: Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina. SUMMARY OF CLIMATOLOGICAL DATA: DECEMBER 2004. Archived September 23, 2006, at the Wayback Machine Retrieved on Dec. 2, 2006.
- Bruce Terry. STORM SUMMARY NUMBER 9 FOR MAJOR WINTER STORM. Retrieved on Dec. 2, 2006.
- Jonathan Gates. The Bovine Bugle. Archived November 9, 2006, at the Wayback Machine Retrieved on Dec. 2, 2006.
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