The weather in Houston is heavily influenced by the city's proximity to the Gulf of Mexico. Though the ocean is 50 miles south of Houston, the entire region is flat, so there's nothing to stop the humid sea breezes from covering the city like a wet blanket. The humidity is high year-round, but it's most oppressive during the summer when daytime highs often reach 95 degrees Fahrenheit. Thunderstorms are also common in summer, but they're rarely severe.
If you book a room in a high-rise hotel, you may get a free light show as a bonus. The lightning produced by a Houston thunderstorm is better than any fireworks display you've ever seen.
Best Times to Visit Houston
October and November are usually the most pleasant months in Houston, with highs in the 70s or 80s and lows in the 50s or 60s. Hurricane season lasts from June through November. While fall hurricanes are rare, Hurricane Ike struck the Galveston coast in September 2008, leading to widespread and long-lasting power outages in Houston. The weather in December is all over the place, with highs ranging from 40 to 75. Cold fronts come and go in December, but the weather can turn surprisingly warm in between them. The coldest weather in Houston occurs in January and February, but temperatures below freezing are rare. The second-best time to visit Houston is in spring when daytime highs are generally between 75 and 85.
Thunderstorms can pop up at any time during spring, however, so be prepared.
Potential Health Issues
High mold counts and air pollution can trigger asthma attacks, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The high humidity in Houston means that mold is always in the air, with higher levels after a rain storm.
Smog from cars and pollution from chemical plants, particularly on the southeast side of town, contribute to the city's poor air quality. If you have asthma or any respiratory problems, make sure you bring plenty of medicine and make a point of finding out where the nearest hospital is in the case of a sudden attack. Even if you're perfectly healthy, be careful while engaging in any vigorous activity when the heat and humidity are high. Humidity inhibits your body's ability to cool off through sweating. Drink more water and take more frequent breaks than you normally would while exercising outdoors in Houston.
Predicting the Weather in Houston
Turn to local TV and radio stations for the most up-to-date weather reports. Houston's NBC affiliate, KPRC, has live radar on its website and forecasts for different regions of the metro area. Houston is so massive that the weather on the north side may be completely different than the conditions on the south side. The CBS affiliate, KHOU, features a daily video forecast and live Doppler radar on its website. The ABC affiliate, KTRK, offers an animated radar feature as well as air quality alerts on its site. The Fox affiliate, KRIV, features up-to-the-minute weather alerts and regional forecasts on its website.
On the radio, 740 AM KTRH delivers frequent weather and traffic updates.
Benefits of Houston Weather
Due to the abundant sun and rain, gardens around Houston are lush and spectacular for most of the year. You can see some of the best examples of Houston's natural lushness at Bayou Bend, the Jesse H. Jones Park and Nature Center, the Houston Arboretum and Nature Center, Armand Bayou Nature Center and Mercer Arboretum and Botanic Gardens.
Avoiding the Weather Entirely
If you stay at a hotel in the Galleria complex, almost all of the buildings are connected, and you can stroll in climate-controlled comfort to dozens of shops and restaurants. You can even cool off at an ice skating rink in the Galleria. A series of underground tunnels for pedestrians offers sweat-free passage to many downtown hotels, restaurants, shops and major office buildings.