Troy Kimmel

Photo Credit: Caleb Kuntz | Daily Texan Staff

Update (9:33 a.m.): The University announced all classes will be cancelled Friday until 5 p.m., citing a "continued threat of hazardous road conditions."

Buildings that will remain open include the Union, Student Activity Center, Kinsolving, Kin’s Market, Jester City Limits and Jester City Market. Littlefield Patio and Cypress Market will be closed.

Road conditions are expected to improve as temperatures increase this afternoon, University administrators said in the emailed announcement.

Essential personnel, defined by the University Policy Office as "employees designated by their departments as vital to the operation of the University," are required to be present unless otherwise released from duty by their department head.

Austin Independent School District announced classes would be cancelled, but AISD will return to normal operations after 4:45 p.m. Capital Metro announced UT shuttles will not operate today, with the exception of the metro airport route.

Original: Citing “winter weather” for the second consecutive day, University administrators announced a delayed start on Friday. Classes and other University operations will begin at noon.

UT spokesman Gary Susswein said the University’s early announcement to delay opening Friday is reflective of an increased commitment to timeliness on behalf of the University, AISD and the city government. Historically, delayed-start decisions have been made at roughly 3 a.m. on the day a weather event is forecasted to occur.

“We’ve always been cautious about the safety of our students, but after last week, there was a recognition that we could be more timely, that we could do things better,” Susswein said. “There is definitely new vigilance in light of what happened last week. People were upset, and they had a right to be. Local government, AISD — we’re all working together to be mindful of the fact that we need to make decisions early enough for people to plan their lives.”

According to Troy Kimmel, the incident meteorologist for the UT Campus Safety and Security Committee, students should expect to see scattered patches of light rain early Friday morning. The National Weather Service issued a winter weather advisory for the area from 6 a.m. until 12 p.m.

“It’s not expected to be a heavy precipitation event, it’s expected to be light,” Kimmel said. “We had a light precipitation event last week too, and it created a lot of problems.”

Kimmel said Thursday’s cold temperatures will also affect the likelihood of ice on Friday.

“All exposed objects, pretty much everything right now, are pretty cold, so any precipitation that falls early tomorrow is going to get icy pretty quick,” Kimmel said.

Susswein said the administration has acknowledged the weather that has forced four late-starts or closures in the last several weeks.

“This is obviously an unusual winter, and there’s a lot of dangerous weather activity going on,” Susswein said. “After last week, we refined our system.”

Last week, University administrators came under fire after deciding the University would stay open, then have a delayed start, then close entirely, all within the same eight-hour period. Some students were already in their 8 a.m. classes when they heard the University had technically closed.

Akira Conley, an international relations and global studies junior who lives off campus, said she was frustrated by how late the decision was made to close campus.

“I drove right around Rio Grande around 7, and I walked to class at 7:45,” Conley said last week. “It kind of sucked — they hadn’t put any sand or salt down to get rid of the ice. People were literally crawling down 24th Street. My friend fell.”

Conley said her government class was not cut short when the University announced closures.

“We sat through the entire class because the professors weren’t informed about what was going on,” Conley said.

Classes whose meeting times overlap with noon will be cancelled entirely or have delayed start times in accordance with individual faculty members decisions.

“Students should follow faculty instructions with regard to those class start times,” the statement read.

AISD schools and offices will also be closed Friday.

To read about the impact closures will have on course syllabi and schedules, read here.

Troy Kimmel, UT’s incident meteorologist is also a senior lecturer in the department of geography and the environment. Kimmel began his career in broadcast meteorology in 1978. 

Photo Credit: Stephanie Tacy | Daily Texan Staff

As a child, Troy Kimmel cowered at the sound of thunder. Now, according to colleagues in his field, he is one of Texas’s most admired meteorologists.

The man with the self-described “longest title on campus” is UT’s incident meteorologist under the Office of Campus Safety and Security and a senior lecturer in the department of geography and the environment.

Kimmel said when he first started working at the University, he did not expect he would stay for more than two decades.

“I was brought on as faculty in the department of geography in the fall of 1988 and was told it was a one-semester commitment,” Kimmel said. “That was almost 26 years ago.”

As part of the Campus Safety and Security Committee, Kimmel advises University officials — including President William Powers Jr. — when inclement  weather strikes.

“When they want to know something, they call [me],” Kimmel said. “I’m here to help them.”

When Longhorn game days roll around, Kimmel works with officials from UTPD, the FBI and the Federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives to ensure everyone in the stadium is safe.

“My concerns are lightning, thunderstorms and severe weather,” Kimmel said. “We come up with scenarios and say, ‘How would we work this? What would happen if this happened?’ We try to be as proactive as we can because, in this business, you don’t want to be reactive.”

Kimmel began his career in broadcast meteorology in 1978. Since then, he has worked for several local TV stations, including KVUE, Fox 7 and KEYE TV.

“I have been at every TV station on the face of the earth in Austin,” Kimmel said. “I’ve been doing radio stuff for a long time too.”

Kimmel left broadcast television in 2012 but still serves as chief meteorologist for KOKE FM radio.

“I think the [TV] business has sort of changed, and it kind of changed in a way that I wasn’t as comfortable with as I had been in the past,” Kimmel said. “In radio, you have to tell a story, and you only have one opportunity to do it. You have to be able to do it verbally. That’s what I like about it.”

Kimmel teaches both an introductory class entitled Weather and Climate and an upper-division class called Severe and Unusual Weather. One of Kimmel’s students, architecture sophomore Clayton Cain, said Kimmel’s experience enhances the quality of his lectures.

“It’s so cool to have a professor with a background like his,” Cain said.

When asked about his hobbies, Kimmel laughed and said the time-consuming nature of his responsibilities leaves him little free time. 

“Hobbies? What’s that?” he said.

If Kimmel is not busy teaching, advising committees or forecasting the weather, he is collecting airline memorabilia. He owns cabinets full of aircraft models and even a beverage cart or two he bought off of an airline.

Kimmel, a self-described “airline hoarder,” said the history of U.S. airlines interests him the most.

“In 2014, relative to the past, we have few airlines,” Kimmel said. “We have a lot of mergers going on, so the history of those airlines are kind of getting tied up in the mergers. … That history, to me, is fascinating, and to be able to own some of that history … I really enjoy that.”

Kimmel has colleagues and friends throughout the region, including Kevin Kloesel, an associate dean and professor in the College of Atmospheric and Geographic Sciences at the University of Oklahoma.

“[Kimmel] and I began going to the same kinds of education meetings, and we’ve been doing that for about 20 years,” Kloesel said. “I really admire what he’s done for Austin in his work over the last multiple decades.”

Engineering graduate student Tianyang Bai waits for the Far West bus Thursday evening in low 30 degree weather. Austin will be seeing ice, sleet and possible snow as an Arctic cold front pushes through Texas. 

Photo Credit: Pu Ying Huang | Daily Texan Staff

Update (1:22 a.m.): As temperatures in Austin continue to hover below freezing, representatives from the University, the City of Austin and Austin Independent School District made a collaborative decision to close their respective offices Friday.

According to Troy Kimmel, the incident meteorologist for the UT Campus Safety and Security Committee, the closure decision was made earlier than usual, in part because of how quickly conditions in the city deteriorated. The decision to close the University as a result of inclement weather is usually made around 3 a.m. on the day the weather event occurs, but in this case representatives were ready to make a decision early.

“Conditions deteriorated substantially,” Kimmel said. “Temperatures got lower — we were getting more and more reports from Austin’s first responding agencies that it was getting really bad even as we came toward midnight. Everyone kind of followed the lead [to close].”

Kimmel, who is also a senior lecturer in the department of geography and the environment, said students should expect temperatures below-freezing until at least midday Friday.

“I expect temperatures will remain at or below freezing until at least around noon,” Kimmel said. “Precipitation should end by daybreak, within the next six hours. The situation will only get worse toward morning, but the temperatures will rise by afternoon, and we’ll see the icy patches give way.”

Kimmel also explained the difference between snow and sleet. The sleet currently falling over Austin is frozen raindrops, while snow never solidifies from a liquid state — it changes directly from a vapor into a solid, Kimmel said.

“Thirty-two degrees at the ground doesn’t get you snow,” Kimmel said. “You’ve got to know the temperature of the atmospheric column above your head, all the way up.”

Kimmel said there is a chance the sleet will turn to snow in the next few hours.

“There’s some indication that in the next hour or so this will turn to snow, and stay that way until it ends at daybreak,” Kimmel said.

Update (1:02 a.m.): With the University being closed Friday, here are three tips from the Office of Emergency Preparedness:

1. If you have to go outdoors, bundle up. Most of the body heat is lost from the region around your head. Wear hats and keep as much of your head covered as possible.

2. Wear multiple layers. With a combination of wind chill and sub-zero temperatures, the human body becomes incapable of matching the rate of heat loss, and any exposed skin could freeze.

3. Avoid driving. If you must travel, drive slow and do not lock your brakes. Approach traffic signals with caution and if your wheels lock, take your foot off of the brakes. If you start skidding, steer the car in the direction that you want to go.

Update (12:43 a.m.): The University noted in a second press release that classes will resume Monday.

Original: The University announced that it will be closed Friday because of inclement weather.

For more information on how the decision to close and delay school is made, visit this previous Daily Texan story.

Photo Credit: Connor Murphy | Daily Texan Staff

In the case of inclement weather, UT officials meet with local meteorologists to discuss conditions before making decisions about school closures, such as the decision to delay class Dec. 6.

Classes starting before 10 a.m. were canceled on Dec. 6 because of a National Weather Service advisory. By the time the University alerted students of the delay at 5 a.m., the light rain had ceased and temperatures had risen from near freezing to above 32 degrees in central Austin.

Despite the fair conditions on campus, storm reports in nearby towns, including Buda, Georgetown and Round Rock, caused University officials to delay opening the campus, according to Troy Kimmel, senior lecturer in the department of geography and the environment.

“Even though here on campus there wasn’t any ice, temporarily closing the University was what we had to do to protect our students, our faculty and our staff,” Kimmel said.

In any case of unfavorable weather conditions, Kimmel and a group of meteorologists from local TV stations, UT safety officials and representatives of other schools and agencies throughout the region meet to discuss possible courses of action.

“We had a number of storm reports from northern Travis County, including a 50-car pileup and ice conditions out on some of the highways,” Kimmel said. “So, considering the fact that we had to bring in all of the faculty, staff and students who don’t live on campus, I think we made a pretty good decision.”

Music performance junior Brenham Adams said because of the timing of the delay, one of his final exams was moved to the following Monday.

“It was an inconvenience for me, and it wasn’t even that cold,” Adams said.

The inclement weather meetings usually take place around 3 a.m. on the day the weather event is forecasted to occur, UTPD spokeswoman Cindy Posey said.

“All the emergency preparedness people in the region get on a conference call,” Posey said. “They talk about what’s happening and they make their predictions based on what [National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration] says.”

Posey said officials also consider public school closures so faculty members who have children can act accordingly.

“We wait to see how all the school systems are going to react to weather because so many of our employees, of course, have to think about ‘well, if my kids are out of school,’” Posey said.

The National Weather Service issues three types of weather warnings, Kimmel said. The weather service issues watches when conditions are conducive to more severe weather, warnings when there is a threat to life or property and advisories when there is a specific risk to travelers.

“We try to be as proactive as possible,” Kimmel said. “We deliberate, and in the course of 15-20 minutes, we have a decision made about what we’re going to do.”

Posey said the well-being of the students and employees ultimately influences decisions regarding weather-related closures.

“We don’t want to do anything that is going to jeopardize anyone in our community’s safety,” Posey said.

Photo Credit: Amy Zhang | Daily Texan Staff

The Texas Exes canceled the annual Hex Rally on Monday because of inclement weather and the effects of the rain on all the participants and electrical equipment involved.

“You got a lot of equipment out there that the rain was likely to effect — it wasn’t the cold,” said Tim Taliaferro, vice president of communications and digital strategy for the Texas Exes. “You’ve got Longhorn Network that’s going to be out there to do the show, and they’ve got equipment, and the band’s going to be out there. … Bevo wasn’t going to be able to be there.”

The tradition began in 1941 after a local fortune teller advised the Longhorns to burn red candles to perform a “hex” on Texas A&M University, which was ranked No. 2 going into the Thanksgiving Day game. Texas won the game 23-0 in College Station. Since then, the rally has only ever been canceled once before — in 1999 out of respect for 12 Texas A&M students who died after the Aggie Bonfire famously collapsed during Thanksgiving week.

After Texas A&M moved to the Southeastern Conference last season, Texas played Texas Christian University in 2012 and will play Texas Tech University on Thursday.

Senior geography lecturer Troy Kimmel said the current weather Austin is experiencing came in early on Friday morning. The cold air arrived first and the upper air systems arrived after and combined to create the cold, moist environment. 

Rain gauges at Camp Mabry have recorded approximately 2.74 inches of rain since last Thursday at midnight. The lowest temperatures have been around 36 degrees.

Journalism junior Eleanor Holmes said she understood why the Texas Exes canceled the event, but she still wanted to carry out the tradition started in 1941.

“I think it’s important that the student body [makes sure] the Hex Rally, and these traditions didn’t die when A&M went to the SEC,” Holmes said. “It’s a Texas tradition, and we have to make sure that it continues on.”

Kimmel said the weather is expected to change Tuesday morning, and Austin should not expect any ice in the mean time.

“We just weren’t cold enough to get the ice … but we just missed it by a couple of degrees, being a little bit too warm,” Kimmel said.

Computer science junior Rebecca Carrender said she will be traveling home for the Thanksgiving holiday but is not worried about the weather as the system leaves. 

“I’m not too concerned,” Carrender said. “I prefer that it didn’t rain, but, as long as there’s not ice on the road, I’m not too concerned.” 

On Tuesday, the temperature is expected to dip to 31 degrees, with a high of 49 degrees, according to the National Weather Service.

Austin is no stranger to heat, but the recent wave of triple-digit temperatures is outside the norm, according to Weather and Climate Resouce Center officials.

Last Wednesday, temperatures broke 100 degrees Fahrenheit for the 45th time this year. Troy Kimmel, manager of the Weather and Climate Resource Center at UT, said this heat is part of a broader trend caused by multiple meteorological factors.

“There is a strong correlation between this [heat] and the multi-year drought,” Kimmel said. 

A multi-year drought combined with upper-level highs has trapped heat at ground level and has made the past few years unusually warm. These periods of heat and drought are not foreign to Texas and this year’s persistent heat is far from the 90-day mark set in 2011. Kimmel said Austin-Bergstrom International Airport has exceeded the yearly average for rainfall by about 0.3 inches.

Nonetheless, UT students are making adjustments in response to the heat. High temperatures have students worried about sunburn, dehydration and just staying cool on campus.

Stephanie Sebastian, an international relations and global studies sophomore, said she has to take additional measures to protect herself from the heat.

“Although I was brought up in Texas, the heat recently has been unbearable,” Sebastian said. “I definitely have to bring extra water and be more diligent in wearing sunscreen than I normally would just to combat the heat.”

International relations and global studies sophomore Will Cowan said he has had to change his routes across campus to stay cool. Cowan said he walks through buildings and takes the bus more often just to cool off.

“Usually I drink two water bottles a day,” Cowan said. “Now, I have to drink twice that.” 

Cowan said that without the extra water he has experienced signs of dehydration — including dizziness. 

While students have made their adjustments for the time being, there is hope that they can resume their normal routines by the end of the month. Kimmel said triple-digit days stop on average by the end of August. 

The multi-year drought has become more severe since 2008 and has grown from West Texas to include South-Central Texas. Kimmel said it would take significant rainfall or other meteorological change to snap out of the drought.

The United States experienced its first taste of autumn this year as an expected cold front drifted throughout the country; this is good news for the state of Texas, which has suffered some of the hottest summers on record over the past two years.

“The period between May and July of this year was the eighth warmest in Texas history since 1895,” Troy Kimmel, geography and environment lecturer, said. “Although August ended up being a bit cooler than in the previous months.”

Despite the notion of cooling down as the summer gradually concludes, last week’s weather forecast ranged in the triple digits, from 100 to 103 F. Kimmel also pointed out that the temperatures were so high over the last week that two temperature records in Austin (at the Bergstrom International Airport and Camp Mabry) were broken (102 and 103, respectively).

Then the cold front moved in and made a significant impact Saturday on the local temperature, bringing it down from a high of 102 Friday to a high of 89 Saturday, along with the humidity dropping to around 13 percent. However, despite the recent cold front, concerns about some stronger-than-expected wind gusts remain.

“There will be a problem when gusty winds come through,” Kimmel said. “And with dry vegetation from the dry summer, there may be a possible fire problem.” Several Hill Country counties were under a red flag warning for most of Saturday.

Kimmel also said that the cold front may not last as long as the city of Austin hopes, as he expects highs to be back to the mid-90s by the middle of this week.

UT received an average of 2.38 inches of rain this weekend, with 98 percent of recorded rainfall happening Sunday night.

Markus Hogue, program coordinator of Irrigation and Water Conservation at the University, said the campus received 2.09 inches of rain at the Tower, 2.53 inches of rain at the Jesse H. Jones Communication Center and 2.54 inches of rain at the Facilities Complex.

Troy Kimmel, geography lecturer and KEYE meteorologist, said the rainfall was caused by low pressure areas and daytime heating. Kimmel said the rainfall was slightly heavier than he initially thought it would be, and some areas in Austin received up to seven inches of rain.

“Most of the rain fell in the city and just west of the city,” Kimmel said. “The beneficial rains we need for the area is out west. Most of the rain fell east of Lake Travis, so we’re not going to see that much improvement.”

Kimmel said while there was a small raise in the water level at Lake Travis, most of the rainfall flowed into the Colorado River. Kimmel said this month has been wetter than average, but Austin is still in a drought.

“The question is: ‘Is this a trend or is this a one time thing?’” Kimmel said. “It does look like the remainder of this week and into the weekend will be drier.”

But Kimmel said the chances for rain were not going away, just diminishing.

Heavy lightning in the storm Sunday night left about 5,000 people without power during the storm’s peak at 8:00 p.m., according to a statement released by Austin Energy. The statement said most people had power back at 10:00 p.m., but about 150 customers still had no power at midnight.

Austin Energy spokeswoman Leslie Sopko said the majority of power had been restored.

“Austin Energy is still working on some scattered outages but nothing major,” Sopko said. “We currently have 19 trouble calls.”

Students huddle under the Far West bus stop near the intersection of Dean Keeton and Whitis Avenue Monday evening as heavy rain passed through the area. Thunderstorms are expected to continue throughout the week.

Photo Credit: Pu Ying Huang | Daily Texan Staff

Update at 2:00 p.m. - Tuesday evening thunderstorms amounted to an average of about .18 inches of rainfall on campus, saving UT about 313,043 gallons of water. The Tower’s rain gauge recorded .16 inches, the Jesse H. Jones Communication Center recorded 1.01 inches and the Facilities Complex’s recorded .2 inches. As of Wednesday there has been an average of 1.1 inches of rain on campus.

With precipitation and cooler temperatures to combat the scorching sun, students can break out the umbrellas and rejoice — the rain isn’t going anywhere for another day or two.

The UT campus received rain late Monday afternoon that continued into the evening. The campus got almost an inch of rain, which resulted in temperatures below 90 degrees. Markus Hogue, program coordinator of UT’s Irrigation and Water Conservation, said the campus saved approximately a week’s worth of water, or 1.6 million gallons, due to Monday’s rainfall. UT’s central irrigation system automatically shuts off its sprinklers when it rains, allowing it to detect whether it needs any more watering after precipitation.

Prior to midnight, UT’s central irrigation system, an advanced system that monitors and waters the campus’ landscape while reporting many different types of data, recorded an average of .92 inches of rain on Monday from its three different rain gauges. The one at the Tower reported .93 inches, Jesse H. Jones Communication Center’s gauge reported 1.01 inches and the Facilities Complex’s gauge reported .82 inches of rain.

Geography lecturer and KEYE meteorologist Troy Kimmel said he expected the weather to be rainy until Thursday due to a moist stable air mass that is working with a weak front.

“We could see another couple of inches of rain,” Kimmel said. “But by the time we get to the end of the week and the weekend, it is showing signs of drying out. I think the rain chances will be diminishing as we get into the weekend.”

Kimmel said he expects Travis County to experience temperatures lower than 90 degrees on Wednesday and temperatures in the mid-90s this Saturday.

“But as the rain chances go down and the sunshine kind of picks up late in the week and into the weekend, temperatures will get back up into middle 90s again,” Kimmel said.

Michael Plemons relaxes in his hammock at the Barton Springs Spillway Thursday afternoon. Plemons said itÂ’s a good way to beat the heat because hammocks are always attached to trees and in the shade.

Photo Credit: Marisa Vasquez | Daily Texan Staff

Record high heat in Central Texas has Austin city officials worried about energy usage and public health, but experts predict the weather will cool off and not cause severe damage.

Temperatures in the triple digits throughout late June peaked June 24 at 109 degrees. Energy officials said Austin saw its highest recorded energy usage ever recorded for June but maintain Texas has enough energy reserves to keep the public comfortable in the heat. Troy Kimmel, UT geography lecturer and KEYE meteorologist, said cooler weather patterns can be expected in the coming months.

“At this point, I think we’re in a changing pattern even though it has started off a little on the warm side,” Kimmel said. “There’s an indication that the temperatures will trend back down, although still a little warmer than what we’d expect seasonably.”

Robbie Searcy, spokeswoman for the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, said last summer saw the highest energy rates ever recorded in Texas or Central Texas. ERCOT is a system operator that accounts for 85 percent of Texas’ electric load, according to the ERCOT website.

“Going into this summer, we anticipated that there would be some seriously hot days like we’re experiencing now,” Searcy said. “It was like it is now for most of the summer last year. It definitely was brutal.”

ERCOT has protocol set in place to ensure enough energy is maintained for the public to operate comfortably, Searcy said, but it is important for residents to do their part in reducing energy use to keep energy reserves stable.

“We basically try to operate with a few thousand megawatts (MW) of extra energy available in the event of an emergency,” Searcy said. “If we drop below 2,300 MW of reserves, we generate an Energy Emergency Level 1. There are steps ERCOT goes through to ensure energy remains reliable through those situations.”

An Energy Emergency Level 2 is called when energy reserves drop below 1,750 MW. At this point, certain industrial loads and other entities have volunteered to cease their energy use until reserves are stable, Searcy said.

“We had that situation a couple times last summer, and of course we increase our pleas to the public,” Searcy said. “Worst case scenario, within this context is if that didn’t work either and we’re still seeing reserves drop, there are a series of rotating outages that occur. That’s what we call an Emergency Level 3.”

Kimmel said signs of an El Niño Southern Oscillation pattern are apparent in the Pacific Ocean, which indicates residents should expect wetter conditions in the southern region of North America.

“The Pacific Ocean waters off the west coast of South America are showing signs of warming,” Kimmel said. “If that’s the case, then with time it would tend to get us a little more rain around here and more in the way of clouds.”

The Austin and Travis County Health & Human Services Department released a statement with tips for how to stay healthy and safe in the current heat, such as planning strenuous activity earlier or later in the day to avoid peak temperatures and avoiding caffeinated or alcoholic beverages.

With a heat-related fatality in Bell County reported June 24, Kimmel said it is critical for residents to constantly be in check with their health.

“Heat is kind of a silent killer,” Kimmel said. “It’s not like a tornado rolls down the street and takes you down. It’s something that can be rather benign in its onset. This is something that concerns us. I know the city of Austin has taken extra precaution with their employees.”

Kimmel said it is impossible to tell precisely how the heat will trend out for the rest of the summer, but residents should not jump to worst-case conclusions.

“Just because we started out the summer with this record high heat doesn’t mean we should assume that’s the kind of summer we’re going to have,” Kimmel said. “That’s a pretty dangerous assumption to make at his point.”