Houston lies near the Gulf of Mexico and sprawls westward from the shores of Galveston Bay on the coastal prairie of eastern Texas. Major waterways include the San Jacinto River, part of which is encompassed by the man-made Houston Ship Channel, and an intricate network of meandering creeks and bayous, the largest of which are Buffalo Bayou and Bray's Bayou. The climate is humid and semitropical in the summertime, with an average annual temperature of about 69 degrees. Houston's winters are mild, although freezing sometimes occurs, and its summers are potent. The threat of severe weather, especially hurricanes that form when northern cold fronts collide with moisture-laden Gulf coast weather systems, is taken seriously by the local population. Houston has been directly hit by two hurricanes in the last forty years, Carla in 1960 and Alicia in 1983, and has been threatened by many others. With Alicia, Houston became the nation's largest city to have endured the passage of a hurricane's eye directly over its downtown area.
Area: 601.69 square miles (2000)
Elevation: Sea level to about 50 feet above sea level
Average Temperatures: January, 51.8° F; July, 83.6° F; annual average, 68.8° F
Average Annual Precipitation: 47.84 inches