Waiting for ‘Fall Day’

  Brazoria Wildlife Refuge ~ September 19

Eric Berger and Matt Lanza, two of Houston’s most trusted meteorologists, maintain a website called Space City Weather. Yesterday, Eric wrote:

A few years ago Dan Reilly, the warning coordination meteorologist at the local National Weather Service, and I were discussing fall cool fronts. We agreed the first day it truly felt like fall in Houston should be a holiday.
Every year since, Space City Weather has designated the first day it will truly feel like ‘fall’ in Houston as Fall Day. This year, that day comes on Wednesday, September 22, after a front moves through overnight and brings much cooler and drier air to the region. It may not be an official holiday, but it sure should be one after we survive summer.

‘Survival’ seems precisely the right term. As August drags into September, the combined pressures of heat, humidity, and hurricanes weigh ever more heavily. Memories of our extraordinary February freeze began to fade in the rising summer heat, just as the browns and grays of a stunned landscape turned once again to green.

Wolf Lake ~ February 28
Big Slough ~ August 8
Teal Pond ~ June 13

Despite our eagerness for autumn, summer’s greens — along with summer’s heat and humidity — will linger into October. But a freshening breeze from the north will make the waiting more bearable, and the first hints of color will make the summer that remains even sweeter. It’s a happy coincidence that this year’s ‘Fall Day’ will occur on the autumn equinox. We’re ready.


Comments always are welcome.

58 thoughts on “Waiting for ‘Fall Day’

  1. I seem to see ever more frequently the expression “most trusted”; most trusted councillor, most trusted gardener, most trusted street sweeper. Is this an quality that is somehow measurable, or is it an attribute that is tossed around randomly, by anyone about anything? It is probably never used when referring to politicians, and certainly not a certain past president!

    1. Eric and Matt have earned the label over the years. They began Space City Weather as an alternative source of information for people who were sick to death of weather hype: the social media fear-mongering over hurricanes, tv ‘weather reports’ that devolve into cheap entertainment, and so on. They provide factual information in a way that’s understandable, never talk down to their readers, and are remarkably accurate in their forecasts. With a hurricane on the horizon, if I were made to chose between The Weather Channel and Space City Weather, it would be an easy choice.

      1. Here I rely on Environment Canada, the national agency that publishes daily weather details for all regions of the country. I never, and I mean never, watch TV weather forecasts. But then again, I don’t watch much TV. We just returned from two weeks away. We never turned on a TV the whole time. After a day in the field exploring nature there was so much to talk about, IDs to verify, pictures to look at, plans to make for the the next day……..

        1. I don’t watch tv weather reports, either — but that’s because I threw out the televisions in 2011, after my mother died. Some day I may miss it, but that day hasn’t yet come.

  2. It’s a fun idea – I know I’m still looking forward to a fall day.
    I’ve always thought the best weatherman we could have would actually have a window to look out of once in a while.

    1. Experiencing weather conditions — and learning how to read the natural world — has its advantages. In my work, it’s crucial to know what I can get away with, and what I can’t, and only experience will teach that. One of my favorite memories is of the day I laid a final coat of varnish in blowing sea fog. I knew that as long as the wind kept blowing, I was safe. It kept blowing, I kept brushing, and all was well.

    1. Mountains are compelling, and a rocky coast can be dramatic, but our coastal prairies have their own charm. They’re friendly and approachable, and far more complex than their simple surface might suggest.

  3. Funny how much we anticipate the change in seasons, and how quickly we tire of them once they arrive. As soon as the fall colors are gone from Boot Canyon, I count the days until the bluebonnets return in the spring…and so it goes. So, it’s morning, and it’s time to go enjoy whatever today brings. Have Camera, Will Travel.

    1. I don’t expect to tire of this change very soon. Of course, this is only a foretaste of the real thing. There’s still a nascent tropical system or two to be watched, and we’ll certainly hit 90F again, but for at least a few days everyone will be out early, and enjoying it. The front’s just making its way into Houston; in a few minutes I’ll go out to greet it.

  4. A cold front is likewise predicted to come through Austin by Wednesday, which coincidentally marks the official beginning of fall, as you noted. None too soon, say I.

    Speaking of this year’s extraordinary February freeze, I have to wonder if state authorities and utility companies have yet done anything that will actually reduce the chances of another large power outage.

    1. The front’s well past you now, and with apologies to Bob Dylan, it’s knock, knock, knockin’ on Houston’s door. We’re still in sauna-like conditions, but that should begin to change in a couple of hours.

      I’ve not read much about the grid situation since changes were made in the board membership. There were a few patronizing statements, but not much else that I’m aware of. I will say that the power companies down here were relatively efficient in restoring power post-Nicholas, but that was more a matter of downed trees, poles, and lines than a serious grid issue.

    1. Obviously, you’re a smart woman. I finally gave it up about three this afternoon. Even in the shade, it was seriously oppressive. It looks like you might be one of the lucky ones getting rain tonight — I hope it holds together and comes through here.

  5. Gorgeous pictures, Linda! Thanks for sharing.
    I’m waiting for the cool front here, too, especially for the drier air. I hope that that will make working in the garden easier for me. I really need to do a lot there, especially planting the remaining cacti we brought back from San Angelo, plus spreading a lot of mulch. The recent heat and especially the high humidity really got me when I was working outside.
    We’re looking forward, btw, to spending a few days in Port A. again, at the beginning of next month.
    Have a great day,

    1. I was going to say it’s too bad you’re not going to be in Port A when the Harvest Moon Regatta sails into town. Then I thought about it for a minute, and reconsidered. That’s quite a party when everyone reaches port — you might enjoy the peace and quiet more.

      The humidity can be bad: no question about that. The past two days, as the front’s pulled moisture in from the Gulf, it’s been as bad here as at any time during the summer. But I see your heat index is down to 80F, while we’re still at 99F. Enjoy the coolth!

  6. indeed we are. the past few days have been oppressive. the deep freeze is still apparent in my yard. so many things blooming late and blooming sparsely when they do. I suppose I should be content that they survived and hope for better next summer.

    1. Oppressive’s the word. Recently, people around here have been using phrases like ‘blast furnace.’ It looks like your area’s getting some rain, and maybe even a thunderstorm. I wish there could have been more rain with the front, but beggars, choosers, and all that. The biggest surprise last weekend was the total absence of mosquitoes. We could use more of that!

    1. Like you, I enjoy seeing the movement of the seasons through different parts of the country. Beyond that, Texas itself is so large that weather conditions can vary radically from one part of the state to another. We can be running around in shorts and flip-flops on the beach while people in the Panhandle are wondering if there will be enough snow for a snowman.

      But the best-ever weather event is a true blue norther: the kind of front that rolls down from Canada — or the arctic — and drops temperatures as much as forty degrees in an hour. The most famous blue norther occurred in 1911. On November 11, 1911, the afternoon temperature in Oklahoma City reached a record high for the date of 83, before plunging 66 degrees to a record low of 17 at midnight. Both daily temperature records remain unbroken and untied since 1911.

      There’s a great National Weather Service piece about the event here.

    1. Family members used to ask me why I didn’t move back to the midwest, and my first reason always was, “Winter.” I enjoy snow, but as the saying goes, it’s great weather to visit, but I wouldn’t want to live there. Now, a nice, crisp fall day? Perfect. It’s time to send this humidity packing.

  7. I love that idea! It sure feels like a fall day here. Google tells me the equinox is tomorrow but boy, it sure feels like fall here today with blustery wind and rain! Our summer was too short — and never so hot as yours. No wonder you are eager! I could do with some 80s. No jumping in the lake for this kid this week! Is there a perfect climate anywhere? I don’t think so. But oh, I love the Fall Day concept. Even if I’m not ready for fall!

    1. You really are moving into fall. I just looked at your forecast, and saw all that rain and those temperatures in the 50s and 60s. We might dip down into the 60s for lows in the next few days — then, it’s back to late summer wamth.

      The equinox will take place for both of us at 2:21 p.m. CDT tomorrow — rain or shine, and ready or not. We can control a good bit in our worlds, but the equinox isn’t one of those things!

    1. It is beautiful. I enjoy watching the changes. Fewer flowers are blooming now, but it’s time for the grasses to begin changing color. They’re not as dramatic as New England foliage, but they’re equally lovely.

  8. We’re more than ready, too, Linda. Seems like summer’s heat and humidity have worn out their welcome for a while now. And even though today is rainy, it does feel a bit more comfy, as that front is plodding its way to the southeast. Still too early for boots and flannel shirts, though!

    1. You may get a kick out of this list of the Twelve Texas Seasons:

      Fool’s Spring
      Second Winter
      Spring of Deception
      Third Winter
      The Pollening
      Actual Spring
      Hell’s Front Porch
      False Fall
      Second Summer
      Actual Fall

      We’re on the verge of False Fall, and you’re right. It’s way too early for the boots and flannels — even for you, but certainly for us. Maybe we’ll be able to pull them out in November, when actual fall shows up!

  9. A really nice set of shots, Linda. It’s been hotter here in Austin these past couple of weeks than it was all summer, though less humid. I always feel a difference in the “air” sometime in August. It may be hot, but the light is different and that becomes more obvious in September. That said, I’m waiting for a cold front that was promised to arrive in the afternoon and hasn’t yet.

    1. I suspect you’re a happier camper at this point. We’re still waiting…waiting…waiting… The front’s draped over Houston, and it’s a slow mover.

      You’re right about the light. As the sun lowers in the sky, the quality does change. It’s not just that the days become shorter, it’s the different angle that makes the difference. I’ve noticed that my birds and squirrels are going to bed earlier, too. They live by the light, not by the clock, and it’s time to start putting out their bedtime snack a little earlier.

  10. We’re fortunate that we’ll have fall temperature for fall day tomorrow. Low of 52F and high of 79F. Of course it’s been a dry state fair so far. Mother Nature has until Sunday to bring the rain.

    1. Oh — look at you. I have weather envy! It sounds like State Fair rain is a tradition for you, just as the Boys’ State Basketball tournament blizzard was an Iowa tradition for years. It still may be. That blizzard was so predictable no one even bet on it. There was no reason to.

      By the way, have you ever read about one of your state’s terrific weather events: the Great Blue Norther of 1911. The NWS article is fascinating. I love a good Blue Norther, but I’m not sure I would have enjoyed that one.

  11. We’ve had a wetter summer than usual, with herds of cumulonimbus stampeding through, with gushes of rainfall that challenge the capacity of the city’s storm drains followed by oppressive humidity up into the 50% range (stop sniggering! it’s usually half that most of the time!). This morning, as I walked over to visit mother, there was a welcome little nip in the air after the humidity and heat.

    1. How about this? I just looked at the humidity across the state: ours is at 61% and yours at 65%. That’s not a sight often seen, but it certainly is a welcome one down here. Over the course of the next day or so, I suspect things will improve even more for us both. I remember how much things improved once Mom and I were within walking distance of each other. I hope the same is true for you. It made it much easier to deal with life’s little emergencies, like her forgetting how to work the tv remote.

  12. About a week ago, in the very early morning, I could see a slightly new odor in the air. Maybe it was simply that the air is now drier but it was definably cooler than the usual temperatures of days before. I love the photos of the wetland prairies. There is so much diversity in those areas. They truly are a treasure.

    1. It’s glorious here this morning: cool, windy, and dry. It’s open window season, at last — at least for a while. I’ve been seeing Monarchs occasionally, and the ospreys are back. I’m eager to get out this weekend and see what new arrivals the wind has brought in. Of course, there will be some losses, too. It won’t be long until the hummingbirds decide to take advantage of the winds for their journey south.

  13. I remember that first hint of fall when I was growing up in Houston. It was a highlight of the year and I certainly would have supported it as a holiday. Of course, I was going to school then and would have been in favor of any holiday anyone proposed, but that’s another matter.

    I was on the golf course in ConCan yesterday when the front blew through here and it was wonderful. We went from the hottest, most oppressive air I’d felt all summer to comfortably cool and dry in a matter of 10 minutes. I know we have a few more hot days to come, but the lows for the next few mornings will be in the 50s. I love it.

    1. Your comment about the oppressive heat this week is interesting. Everyone here agrees that Monday and Tuesday of this week were the worst we’ve experienced all summer. As you say, the deliciousness of the front is one thing; the fact that it’s going to linger for a few days is even better.

      Speaking of Houston, I’ve been reading a history of Telephone Road by Burton Chapman, who grew up in the southeast part of the city and who teaches in Pearland now. A friend and I had stopped by the Tel-Wink Grill for breakfast recently, and spent a couple of hours doing the “do you remember?” thing. It’s hard to believe I first ate there half a century ago. With your Houston background, you might get a kick out of this Rodney Crowell number. I laughed at the shot of the West Alabama Ice House: been there, done that. I never made it to Magnolia Gardens, though.

      1. I hadn’t seen that Rodney Crowell video, so thanks. It brought back a lot of memories of early days in Houston. There was a Prince’s Hamburgers near my house when I was young and I remember my excitement when my mother stopped there and we had some of those 19cent burgers for lunch.

        Speaking of Rodney Crowell and Telephone Road, here’s Guy Clark’s nod in that direction.

        1. What a great tune. I hadn’t thought of Black Diamond strings in years and years. I haven’t been keeping up with Crowell’s newer work, either, and I need to do that. I didn’t even know he’d written a book (Chinaberry Sidewalks). That might be worth a read, just to see what happens when a songwriter decides to go literary.

  14. Glad to hear that your Texas heat will diminish…probably has at the time I am writing. Some of it may have leaked up this way as we are to be hot and humid for a few days but with rain off and on. Mary Beth and I are going to Acadia tomorrow and hope that it is a bit cooler there. Bar Harbor often has similar weather to Amherst so we’ll see.
    Color is changing slowly here and we need cool nights to move it along.So far there is slight change but maybe by the time we return there will be more. If not then we just enjoy it later in the year.
    I read a bit too quickly and thought you said one of the meteorologist’s name was Mario Lanza.
    Happy Fall Day although one day late.

    1. Everybody’s happy here. We got a real front, right on time, and cool and dry is the order of the day. Best of all, the conditions are predicted to last through the weekend, so there will be a little out-and-abouting going on — as for you. I’m glad you’re getting to one of your favorite spots. I’ll look forward to a few more rocks, and probably a sunrise or two (at least, I hope the weather allows for that).

      I laughed at the thought of Mario Lanza as a meteorologist. Can’t you imagine him singing the forecast?

      1. I bet everyone is and happy that there isn’t an imminent tropical storm in the immediate future.
        The forecast for the time we are there is iffy. Rain to some degree each day so probably cloudy much of the time. I do have a tripod mounted umbrella so unless torrential some photography will happen. We’ll be a bit hesitant to do our usual town shop browsing as the place will be full of international tourists from cruise ships.
        I bet he’d do a much better job than this guy.

        I haven’t been able to use the shortener on this phone so sorry for the link.

        1. Got the link fixed up. The very thought of a tripod mounted umbrella stopped me. It never had occurred to me that such a thing could exist. Of course, I’ve not yet gone for a tripod, so I suppose it makes sense that I wouldn’t have pursued accessories for the accessory.

          What I need more than anything at this point is just to get out and start re-acquainting myself with what equipment I do have. I had one of “those” experiences on Sunday. I drove to the refuge with the AC on full blast, and the camera sitting in the front seat. I know better, but there we are.

          Of course the camera got cold, and when I finally stepped out of the car, everything fogged up. I’ll spare you the details, but eventually the lenses and mirror unfogged, and I still got only a blank, white screen when I pressed the shutter. Eventually, I thought to look at the dials, and there was the answer. I’d been trying to photograph hummingbirds at dusk the night before, and the ISO was cranked up to 6400. One I turned to magic dial back to 100, all was well. At least I’d remembered extra batteries and had a card in the camera. Yep: gotta get out more.

          1. I did something similar with my ISO setting a while back. Also shooting birds while in Acadia of all places . The quality of my images after that was less than desired as it was long enough ago that noise was a bigger concern than now. Live and learn. At least you haven’t shown us your thumb in any of your images.

    1. It’s been great fun living in the home of NASA and the astronauts. ‘Space City Weather’ suits us perfectly. And, yes: we’re ready for fall. We had our taste. Now, we’re back to heat and humidity, but October is coming.

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