When I tell people I meet that I'm from Texas, the first look I get is one of shock, and perhaps disappointment. "You're not a cowboy," the person sitting across from me will mutter. "I thought Texas was full of cowboys."
After explaining the nuances of folklore and reality to whomever I'm chatting up, the next topic I usually end up addressing is weather, particularly if it's winter at the time. "What do you mean it's colder in Austin than it is here?" They'll retort, even more, terrified than they were upon learning that I have never once seen an actual cowboy, in spite of being a native Texan.
To be sure, while Texas isn't usually colder than most places in the country or world during the winter, it has gotten extremely cold here in the past. You won't believe how cold it's gotten in these five well-known Texas cities!
01 of 05
I've lived in Austin for almost 10 years, so I can speak to how cold it gets here personally. Although snow happens rarely (only once every other year or so, and usually not more than a dusting), it frequently dips down below freezing—sometimes even in the 20s Fahrenheit! The lowest temperature ever recorded in Austin was -2°F, in 1949, according to the National Weather Service.
02 of 05
Although not as far north as Amarillo, which gets regular snowfall and frequent temperatures in the 10s and 20s, Dallas is far above the frost line—it freezes dozens of times per year, as early as October and as late as April. It also snows an average of 1.5 inches per year in Dallas, where the temperature dipped to a bone-chilling -8°F in 1899.
For travelers, this occasionally snowy and icy weather can cause a hassle, given that Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport, as one of America's busiest airports, can be delay-prone even in good weather.
03 of 05
If you know anything about desert climates, it won't surprise you that El Paso has cold winters. What's shocking to many people is just how cold it gets here in winter. Although winter temperatures in El Paso are much higher than the all-time record of -8°F set in 1962, with an average daily temperature of 44°F, regional topography leads to strong winds that often make it feel much colder.
Fun fact: El Paso gets about 7 inches of snow per year, but had a record snowfall of 22.4 inches during the winter of 1987. Snowfall can be even higher in the some of the mountain ranges near the city, although you're unlikely to be doing any trekking during the winter months.
04 of 05
One interesting fact about balmy Houston, which sits only about 50 miles from the Gulf of Mexico, is that it's only snowed there about 30 times in the past century. I say "only", but to many people, the fact that it's snowed at all here will come as a shock: Although temperatures in Houston plummeted to just 5°F in both 1930 and 1940, the average winter temperature is a comfortable 54°F, with just 18 days per year dipping below freezing. If you're looking for the coldest weather in Texas, Houston is probably not where you're going to find it.Continue to 5 of 5 below.
05 of 05
Without a doubt, the fact about San Antonio that surprises people most is just how small its famous Alamo is. The second runner-up probably relates to San Antonio's winter weather, which is far colder than you might imagine.
Like many Texas cities, it holds a bitterly cold all-time record, of 0°F, set in 1949. San Antonio weather thankfully hasn't come close to that frigid low since, but San Antonio tends to experience one day below 20°F per year, in spite of an average winter temperature of around 50°F. If you visit San Antonio during the winter, don't just "remember the Alamo"—remember your coat, too!