Wooly worms, fat squirrels and predicting winter

By Kyle Lovern

October 20, 2013

With the first chilly temperatures of the season this weekend, many of us are wondering what kind of winter lies ahead for the region.

Of course many of the old timers have certain ways to predict the upcoming winter weather.

According to Appalachian Mountain folklore, the woolly worm, which is actually a tiger moth caterpillar, can foretell what the winter will be.

Will this winter be mild or harsh?

According to the folklore, when the brown bands on woolly worms in the fall are narrow, it means a severe winter is coming at the end of 2013 and into 2014.

However, the wider the brown band on the wooly worm, a milder winter is predicted.

There are some varieties of white oaks that will hold their leaves longer into winter if it’s going to be harsh, at least that is what the old timers have said.

Then there are the squirrels.

If the winter will be tough, then the squirrels have a lot of fat on them at this time of year. They are also gathering and storing more nuts so they can last through the long, cold days of winter.

I’ve seen a few squirrels traveling in my neighborhood, which means they are probably getting ready for the long winter ahead.

Of course there are our aching joints which can indicate rain. But, they can also predict cold and snowy weather.

An owl hooting high on the mountain signals fair weather; the owl hooting in the lowlands signals for foul weather. (While walking my dog the last few nights, I have heard a screeching owl. Is this a sign of what is to come for the Tug Valley?)

Then there is the old folktale that there will be as many snows in a winter as there are fogs in October.

We have had a lot of foggy mornings here in October. If this legend is true, then we may be in for a few snowfalls this winter.

Many go by the Farmer’s Almanac and then there are those that use the modern approach and listen to the Weather Channel meteorologists predicting the winter ahead.

Regardless of who gets the prediction correct – whether it is the wooly worms or a nationally known meteorologist, I hope it’s a mild winter. As you get older, the cold and snowy weather just isn’t any fun. There are no “snow days” like there are for the kids going to school.

You have to brave the bitter cold, just to shovel the sidewalks and driveway, then still slip and slide to go out to work.

So fingers crossed we won’t have many big snows this season. However, the pessimist in me says we are due for a long, cold winter.

(Kyle Lovern is the sports editor for the Williamson Daily News. Comments or story ideas can be sent to klovern@williamsondailynews.com or klovern@civtasmedia.com)