How to Plan for Crazy Weather in Houston

Houston weather

photo by @naixaaguirre

Have you noticed the drastic swings in Houston weather? One day it can be sunny and 75 degrees.  The next day it’s raining and 40 degrees.  And sometimes, this swing happens between the morning and the afternoon! With these kind of changes, how is one supposed to plan outdoor events and know what gear to bring?

First, use the 10-day forecast as a guide only.  Houston experiences swings so frequently, that it is hard to rely solely on the 10-day forecast but it’s good to keep an on eye on.  The most important information on the weather is the radar on the day of your event.

What to do if the forecast is calling for rain:

photo by @rudovell

For rain, I like to use Weather in Motion from Click on the Future button and you can see the weather forecast for the next 5 hours.  Look for the area where your event is being held and see if the clouds are covering your event at the time of your event.  Light green to dark green, I typically will still have my hiking events, and bring a rain coat.  If it’s yellow to red and the clouds are moving slowing (meaning the rain will last a long period of time over that spot) I will likely cancel at that time. The main reason to cancel when strong rains stay in one spot for a long period is flood.  Over the last couple of years, Houston has experienced server flooding.  It's just better to be safe.

Finding the break in the clouds:

photo by @_sarah_frizz_

One of the first public events I led was a hike in Huntsville State Park.  It rained, heavy rain, in Houston the entire week leading up to the event.  I didn’t sleep much the night of the event because it was raining and I all I could do was keep an eye on the radar.

Two days before the event, I called Huntsville State Park and asked about the trails to see if they were flooded.  The park rangers told me they were not getting the same kind of rain that Houston was experiencing.  The morning of the hike, I checked Weather in Motion.  Though the massive clouds & storm covered the Houston area, there was a small break right over Huntsville.  After much deliberation, I decided to go on the hike as scheduled.

It rained the entire time we drove to Huntsville.  As we approached the exit, the rain started to get lighter and the clouds started to break up. By the time we got to the parking lot, no rain!

About 10 others made the venture out, optimistic about the weather holding off for us. So we started our hike; we had beautiful skies and no rain for the entire 7 mile hike! We even ate lunch and only received our first mist of rain as we were packing up. It poured the entire ride home and I felt super accomplished for having hiked in beautiful weather while most people kept shelter inside from the rain.

Knowing when to cancel:

Knowing areas of town is also important when deciding to keep your event scheduled or cancel. Last month, I had a Hiking Zen (Hiking plus Yoga) event scheduled. Again, I kept a close eye on Weather in Motion all morning. I also looked at my Yahoo Weather App. On the app, there was a flash flood warning.  Since our hike was along the bayou and I knew that the frontage roads along this section of 45 flood extremely badly, I decided to cancel the event for safety reasons.

It’s never fun canceling your plans but when it comes to flood waters, safety should always come first.  We didn’t end up getting as much rain as I thought we would that morning, but I was still happy with my decision of safety first.

Plus, since we had to reschedule our Hiking Zen event, you can now join us!  Check the calendar and join us!

What to do when the forecast is calling for temperature swings:

photo by @momof4exploring

For temperature changes, I use the Yahoo Weather App on my phone and look at the temperature by hour throughout the day.  Typically, we will not cancel an event based on temperature, just adjust what type of clothes or gear is needed.

Dressing in layers

I woke up to the sound of rain (once again.) I checked Weather in Motion and it looked like the rain would clear up so I wasn’t concerned.  One thing I didn’t do was check my Yahoo Weather App for the temperature.  Since it was December and just rained, I automatically assumed a cold front came with it and so did everyone else who showed up for the hike.  We all overdressed!  After all, who expects 80 degrees on a raining December morning?  Houstonians should!  I had even spent an extra 10 minutes looking for my base layer only to not need it. Haha.

Dressing in layers is the key to Houston temperature swings.  In cooler weather, I usually wear a base layer with a short sleeve shirt on-top.  Both layers are usually wicking material.  Wicking means the material pulls moisture away from your body and keep you cool in warm weather or warm in cooler weather.

For pants, I like pants where the bottoms zip off or they roll up easily.  Hiking pants come in different thicknesses as well.  I have a light pair for warm weather and thicker pairs for cooler weather. All of them dry quickly.  Being dry is the most important thing! (with the exception of being in the desert in the heat…then wet clothes can come in handy.)

NOTE ON COTTON:  Never wear wet cotton in cold weather.  Wet cotton draws the heat out of your body and takes a long time to dry. When it’s cold, this can cause hyperthermia. In hot weather, it can be beneficial by keeping you from overheating. Just be sure to remove any wet cotton BEFORE it gets cold.

Also, look for types of clothes that keep you warm when it cools down and cools you off when it warms up.  Wool is a good example.  Smart Wool is an excellent base layer because of this quality. All of my socks are also smart wool. I have different thicknesses for summer and winter but each will help you be comfortable with large temperature swings.

Using judgement

Planning for weather is by far the thing that I worry about the most when planning an event or vacation. It’s a balancing act for ensuring everyone’s safety, not canceling the adventure prematurely and being prepared for any situation.  At the end of the day, you are the best person to judge your safety so use your judgement as the ultimate deciding factor.  When packing, if I’m doubt about what I will need, I always opt to overpack. I rather have something and not need it than need something I don’t have.

Come to our Grand Opening Party in January to see gear we like to use & ask us questions about weather, gear, or outdoor activities.

About HTXoutdoors:

If you have been looking for a group to explore Houston, do outdoor activities and meet people in your age range, you have finally found it! We are Houstonians (new, original and somewhere in between) in our 20’s & 30’s and we love the outdoors!

With a zest for adventure, we have day trips, weekend trips & international trips.  So if you have 2 weeks of vacation or “unlimited”…you can find new adventures to fit your schedule.   Come out and meet others interested in hiking, biking, camping, kayaking, rock climbing and more! Don’t sit around at work waiting for something to do tonight. Join Us!

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