We’ve had our first taste of cool weather and there are hints of fall in the air.
The days are getting markedly shorter and the dogwood leaves are starting to redden.
Winter is not far away.
For some, “winter” is a four-letter word. These people hate the cold, the snow and the long nights. Others, like me, love sitting by a warm fire during a blizzard.
What will the coming winter bring? That’s what we start asking about this time of the year. Will we have mild weather, or will frigid Arctic air blast down from the North Pole?
Before I lay out my winter weather forecast—which is historically about 85–90 percent accurate, let’s take a look at nature, which often proves to be the definitive prognosticator.
The old folks (whoever they might be) always said that nature provides bountiful crops the summer before a hard winter so that all its creatures will have enough to eat.
If that old adage is true, then we could be in for a rough one, because most of the walnut and persimmon trees I have seen are hanging full. But the acorn crop is only average, which would suggest a moderate winter.
Some old people used to say that the winter would be as cold as the summer was hot. If this theory holds true, you better stock up on long drawers, because we have already had more than 50 days when the temperature reached 90 degrees or above.
My grandmother always based her prediction of winter snowfalls on foggy mornings in August. There would be one snow, she said, for every foggy August morning.
Unfortunately for snow lovers, there were only two or three foggy mornings last month. To make matters worse, the fog was not that thick and it burned off quickly.
There are some people who inspect wooly worms in order to forecast the winter weather. The woolier the worms, the more cold and snow we will have.
I’m not a big fan of this form of prognosticating, but I did dig through the woodpile and find a couple of wooly worms just to cover all my bases. They were only moderately wooly. There are, of course, two ways to look at that. Either it will be a mild winter or they had just gotten a haircut to cool down from the summer heat.
Finally, there are those who look to the Farmers’ Almanac for the winter weather forecast and someone told me the other day that this periodical is predicting a terrible winter. That’s not unusual. The Farmers’ Almanac always predicts a bad winter.
So what do I think? This year, I tend to go with the hot summer–cold winter theory. I look for below average temperatures with several intense high pressure systems pushing down along the East Coast from Canada.
Unfortunately for snow lovers, high pressure systems are dry air masses and are not conducive to producing frequent snowstorms.
But, alas, all is not lost. When high pressure ridges set up along the Appalachians, low pressure systems often ride up the East Coast along the edge of the cold air. The counter-clockwise circulation of the low taps into the cold air of the high and we get big coastal storms.
These almost always occur in January and early February, so dreaming is about as close as you’re going to get to a white Christmas this year in Central Virginia. But you might want to make sure the old woodshed is filled to the brim after the holidays.
Before giving specific dates for possible snowstorms, I must make my usual disclaimer. We here east of the mountains live in an area where 50 miles east or west can make the difference between a cold rain, a covering of sleet or a snowstorm.
We are in a sort of weather purgatory between the cold influences of the Appalachians and the warming influences of the Atlantic. I can predict storms, but I can’t guarantee what will drop from the sky. That said, let’s look at some likely storm dates.
We almost always get some form of precipitation around Nov. 24–26, but this year, it will likely be rain.
The best chance of snow in December will be the first three days of the month. Other possibilities are Dec. 9–11, Dec. 20–21 (likely ice) and Dec. 28–31.
I look for January to be a cold, dry month with only three chances of snow—Jan. 11–13, Jan. 20–23 (again, probably ice) and Jan. 28–30. If we get a big coastal storm in January, it will likely be Jan. 11–13.
The big one could come on Feb. 1–3 as spring weather patterns began to materialize. If we get a monster storm, this will be it.
There is a good possibility of moisture Feb. 10–12 and Feb. 16–19 but these probably will be rainmakers.
For two years now, we have had a severe windstorm around the end of February or the first of March, so watch out for that.
And don’t plan an outside wedding for March 6–10 because we almost always get either rain or snow during this period.
We could see an inch or two of snow March 20–21 and again around March 27–30. And don’t forget, we can get measurable snow as late as April 15. (Oct. 10 is the earliest we have had measurable snow—in 1979.)
How much snow this winter? Maybe 10–12 inches unless a coastal storm develops.
School days missed? Five at most.
That’s how I see it. A frigid January and early February and a winter with very little snow.
But I could be wrong.