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richtrav

Freeze damage in Tamaulipas Mexico I - Matamoros to San Fernando

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richtrav

Last weekend I had the chance to drive down to Ciudad Victoria, around the Sierra de Tamaulipas and Sierra Madre, and as far south as Gomez Farias. I was really anxious to see what the cold damage looked like and how it might have compared to the extremely severe freeze of December 1989, which saw the low 20s driven to near the Tropic of Cancer at Victoria and Soto la Marina (spoiler alert: it wasn’t as bad).

Starting out in Matamoros the damage looks about like urban Brownsville, it’s hard to see much difference, there was a surviving Thrinax radiata on the south side of a building on the southern side of town but damage to the royals is very similar to Brownsville and the coconuts in town parks are just a memory now. But as always there is an exception: surprisingly at the Holiday Inn there is a lone coconut which appears to be very much alive. The trunk looks incredibly good - too good to me, like they maybe protected it. But they certainly didn’t protect any royals in the parking lot, over half of them were very dead, so I don’t know what kind of treatment they may have given the coconut. It’s around the eastern side of the hotel, that may have helped a little. Given the stunted/singed look of the older leaves it went through some sort of freezing event so I doubt it was planted after February.

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As you leave Matamoros it’s obvious they were in a mild urban heat island, as you get south of town it looks as bad as most of Cameron County, there’s even a Bismarckia on the way out of the city that just barely survived, most of them in the Valley look better. For the first 20-25 miles south of town it looks about the same: most royals are dead, the tropical figs are burned back severely, typical low 20s kind of damage very similar to Texas right along the river. 

Subtly after that you start to notice maybe things start to look about like they did in Matamoros, then around a little place called El Miguelito you start to see some glimpses of moderation. Some of the figs and guamuchil (Pithecellobium dulce) trees start showing less dieback intermittently, not huge but noticeable enough. There are also more surviving royals. This area probably saw the mid-20s for a shorter duration than near the Rio Grande.

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The first coconut that looks like it had to make it on its own with no surrounding protection is at a small bend in the road called Santa Teresa, where there is also a surviving Norfolk pine and an old Sideroxylon palmeri that looks just as large now as it did in the mid-90s (not shown).

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Interestingly there are also what appear to be spontaneous Stenocereus huastecorum/griseus in the area now, I don’t remember those occurring before the San Fernando area in the past. Also a hybrid mesquite zone is found north of San Fernando now, if I remember correctly the first ones used to be south of town. 

Going farther south there is progressively less damage to guamuchil and the native fig (Ficus cotinifolia) though other figs were still showing some damage. Most royals were in noticeably better condition than those farther north.

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At the big Y junction where the Matamoros and Reynosa roads join/split there is a hotel that had several coconuts planted and they were slowly recovering. 

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Starting from about the junction and continuing down to the area around San Fernando damage increasingly became confined to the really tropical plants like Benjamin figs. On the loop around San Fernando it was hard to make out much damage to relatively tender plants like Ficus nitida. It would have been interesting to go into San Fernando but the loop around town is so easy and the town’s reputation precedes it. A ranch outside town reported a low of 28 in the mid-February event and the damage is consistent with readings briefly in the upper 20s.

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From there the damage continues to diminish…..

 

 

 

 

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kinzyjr

@richtrav Thanks for sharing!

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chinandega81

I was wondering how bad the damage was going south of the border. Thank you so much for documenting it. It is surprising how little progress that bad cold damage made into Mexico, I would have thought, as intense as it was, it would have been worse deeper into Mex.

 

How much warmer did the cement filled urban heat island keep Maramoros compared to Brownsville, where everything is wood and stucco and less dense overall?

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richtrav
5 hours ago, chinandega81 said:

How much warmer did the cement filled urban heat island keep Maramoros compared to Brownsville, where everything is wood and stucco and less dense overall?

It’s honestly hard to tell much difference between the two, the wind blew away a lot of heat. Both had a mild urban heat island effect.

 

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necturus

Thanks for the pictures, very interesting. Lots of places I'd like to visit but probably never will. Oh well.

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SubTropicRay

Rich,

Fantastic post.  I've taken a little tour of Brownsville with Google Maps.  The city photos were updated in April 2021 so the freeze damage visible is relatively fresh.  I've run across lots of Royals showing emerging green which is great.  How cold did it actually get in Brownsville?  Accuweather says 26F on the 16th but the NWS reported 22F at the airport.  Most of the damage looks more consistent with the 25-26F reading.  22F would have killed all/most of the Royals.

Ray

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RedRabbit
7 hours ago, SubTropicRay said:

Rich,

Fantastic post.  I've taken a little tour of Brownsville with Google Maps.  The city photos were updated in April 2021 so the freeze damage visible is relatively fresh.  I've run across lots of Royals showing emerging green which is great.  How cold did it actually get in Brownsville?  Accuweather says 26F on the 16th but the NWS reported 22F at the airport.  Most of the damage looks more consistent with the 25-26F reading.  22F would have killed all/most of the Royals.

Ray

We posted a lot of Wunderground screenshots when the freeze occurred here:


As I mentioned in the thread, the highest low temperature I saw in all of Texas was 24f in downtown Brownsville. Most areas were 22-23f, including South Padre Island, and it was a very long duration freeze. I’m a little surprised a number of royals survived this. 

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Xenon
7 hours ago, SubTropicRay said:

Rich,

Fantastic post.  I've taken a little tour of Brownsville with Google Maps.  The city photos were updated in April 2021 so the freeze damage visible is relatively fresh.  I've run across lots of Royals showing emerging green which is great.  How cold did it actually get in Brownsville?  Accuweather says 26F on the 16th but the NWS reported 22F at the airport.  Most of the damage looks more consistent with the 25-26F reading.  22F would have killed all/most of the Royals.

Ray

The southern parts of Mission, McAllen, and especially Hidalgo look surprisingly good too!

Listed a few days ago (more in the aerial photos)

https://www.zillow.com/homedetails/1901-Pecos-St-Mission-TX-78572/80081954_zpid/

Young royals

https://www.google.com/maps/@26.1879888,-98.2982358,3a,75y,346.14h,94.01t/data=!3m7!1e1!3m5!1sNYyDs6H-n28kxf5VMTL_uQ!2e0!5s20210401T000000!7i16384!8i8192

Almost all of these young royals appear to be recovering 

https://www.google.com/maps/@26.1821513,-98.2693506,3a,90y,354.86h,91.23t/data=!3m6!1e1!3m4!1sos7DlBuMMlPcYeVDTnyPHA!2e0!7i16384!8i8192

Foxtails

https://www.google.com/maps/@26.1877283,-98.2995989,3a,75y,39.18h,98.27t/data=!3m7!1e1!3m5!1syLzJowWBJtvBBVY9Et0gfw!2e0!5s20210401T000000!7i16384!8i8192

Foxtails

https://www.google.com/maps/@26.1877364,-98.2990974,3a,85.4y,359h,92.49t/data=!3m7!1e1!3m5!1s2QJWPJ7Rw8NxsiLI41eUmQ!2e0!5s20210401T000000!7i16384!8i8192

UTRGV Brownsville

 

Edited by Xenon
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richtrav
On 10/6/2021 at 1:21 PM, SubTropicRay said:

Rich,

Fantastic post.  I've taken a little tour of Brownsville with Google Maps.  The city photos were updated in April 2021 so the freeze damage visible is relatively fresh.  I've run across lots of Royals showing emerging green which is great.  How cold did it actually get in Brownsville?  Accuweather says 26F on the 16th but the NWS reported 22F at the airport.  Most of the damage looks more consistent with the 25-26F reading.  22F would have killed all/most of the Royals.

Ray

Ray

The NWS thermometer went down during the night/early morning of the 15th so they relied on a co-op to get their readings. Personal weather stations around town recorded 23F with one recording 24F. This is backed up by a reading of 23.5F in Matamoros and 23F at the Matamoros airport. South Padre also had 23F. Parts of the north side of Brownsville probably dropped to 22F and 22 seems to be the common low through most of the area around I-2/Hwy 83, some were between 22 and 23, and everywhere except extreme southeastern Cameron County spent around 3 hours near the 23F mark. And yes, 22 does kill most royals but some survived. It even killed a few queen palms and many pygmy dates out in the open. A lot of royals that started coming out eventually died.

In spring I did a graph of some readings around the lower RGV and the warmest areas around Corpus on the 15th from midnight to about 6:30pm. There was a noticeable difference between even the warmest parts around Corpus and anything down here. 

B8F648E3-0B8F-4968-8BD1-299C96253D23.jpeg

Edited by richtrav
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SubTropicRay

Rich,

How many nights did Brownsville drop below freezing?  Was 1989 a 2, 3, 4 or 5 night event there and how did it compare?

Ray

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richtrav

Brownsville had 2 nights of freezing, the first being a windy advective freeze which was at its worst in the morning - it did not go above freezing until about 2 or 3pm. The second night was a radiation freeze down to about 26F until about 4am when clouds rolled in, it was probably warmer in the middle of town but the damage had been done from the first night.

1989 was the worst freeze of the 20th century in Brownsville and the western Gulf coast by a comfortable margin, there was one afternoon when it did not get warmer than the upper 20s for a high and there were two nights in the teens. Unlike 2021 that freeze penetrated deep into Tamaulipas. After 1989 Brownsville would not drop below 28F again until 2021. 

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