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This February was the warmest ever and record temperatures and fire danger prevailed. Although Punxsutawney Phil from Pennsylvania forecasted six more weeks of winter, spring seemed to move into Texas in a hurry. Many Texas cities broke daily record high temperatures several times throughout the month. In North Texas on February 23, the winter high temperatures rose above 80 degrees 12 times, breaking the previous record of 10 days over 80 degrees. The warm weather, however, has been good to the wildflowers and crops, which have flourished in the spring-like temperatures. Warm weather and brief rains have moistened the soils enough to kick start the growing season in Texas. Because winter has not officially ended, farmers are worried that a sudden freeze could still move through before the season is over, damaging the early crops and delaying the harvest.

Many wildfires occurred, especially in North Texas, due to the warmer than normal temperatures, which helped dry out the land. Numerous Red Flag Warnings and outdoor burn bans were issued due to the gusty and dry conditions, and wildfires were able to spread quickly across the region once a spark ignited. At the beginning of the month, North Texas and the Panhandle were included in a region that covered over 157,000 square miles of land at critical risk for fire. On the February 23, a wildfire in Oldham County damaged over 7,000 acres of land. Adding to the fire danger, Texas saw drought conditions increase throughout the month as low precipitation totals dominated most of the state. At the beginning of February, Canyon Lake in Central Texas had to close several boat ramps because the lake was too low to safely enter. Lake Travis and Lake Buchanan, Central Texas’ two main reservoirs, had to close all public boat ramps due to devastatingly low water levels.

Adding to the unusually spring-like February, Texas saw its fair share of severe weather in the past month. In Houston, heavy rain and flooding trapped fans in the football stadium for hours on Superbowl Sunday. Several tornadoes in Southeast Texas were produced from a severe weather event on Valentine’s Day. The tornadoes, varying in intensity from EF0 to EF2, caused damage consistent with 130 mile wind gusts, including toppled trees and structural and roof damage to homes and businesses in the area. Nearly 21,000 energy customers reported losing power in the Houston metroplex due to the severe weather. Severe weather on President’s Day produced large hail, flooding, and a few tornadoes in North and Central Texas, as well as heavy flooding in Southeast Texas. In San Antonio, minor injuries were reported from the storms and over 100 homes were damaged due to a tornado. The severe weather caused more than 44,000 CPS Energy customers to lose power. Strong winds associated with the storms derailed several rail cars in Thorndale, and residents reported an overturned cattle truck along with devastating damage to an equipment barn.

On the opposite side of the spectrum, cold weather in Texas broke up some of the warmer weather for parts of the state. Near the beginning of February, the Panhandle saw winter weather conditions such as accumulation of snow, ice, and freezing rain, which caused hazardous driving conditions. On February 13, temperatures in the Panhandle dropped 51 degrees from a record high to freezing temperatures overnight as a strong cold front pushed into the area.
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