According to Appalachian folklore, the black-and-brown woolly caterpillars that we’ll soon see crawling around can predict just how cold and snowy our winter is going to be.
If the caterpillars have black bands at each end of their bodies, and a reddish-brown section in the center, then we could be in for a harsh winter. Folklore has it that when the brown band is narrow, winter weather will be harsh.
One internet site I saw stated that the worms are accurate. “Surveys have found that woolly worms’ weather predictions have been accurate 80 percent of the time since the 1950s,” the article read.
Another way some old timers predict the upcoming winter is if animals have an unusually thick coat of fur as winter approaches. So if your dog or cat seems to be getting their thick winter coat, expect it to be colder than normal.
If the squirrels in your neighborhood are gathering up great quantities of nuts and they are traveling around to do so, that means they are getting ready for a long, cold winter. Squirrels may also bury their nuts deeper than usual if they expect a lot of snow.
More folklore says that thicker acorn shells mean a cold winter. The same goes for corn husks. If they are very thick and tight, then it means colder weather is imminent.
When the birds start flying south earlier than usual, the old timers say that they are bolting the area because of an early oncoming winter. If they’re still hanging out in late November, the idea is that they’re not in a big hurry to leave because they know the winter weather will not be as severe.
The brighter the fall foliage, the colder and snowier the winter ahead, the saying goes. In truth, the color of fall foliage depends on a number of factors including how dry the past year has been. But chlorophyll, the pigment that makes leaves green, does begin to decrease as the nights get longer in the fall, with cooler weather bringing brighter colors.
Another legend has it that for every foggy morning in August, there will be a snowfall during the winter. We have a lot of foggy mornings in the Tug Valley area during this time. I sure hope that this isn’t true.
While doing some research online, I read where some meteorologists are predicting a colder than average winter for portions of the Southwest, Southern Plains, Southeast and East Coast.
Warmer temperatures are expected from the West Coast, the Northwest in particular, eastward into the Upper Midwest and interior sections of the Northeast.
However, the best chance for cold conditions in the East will come later in the winter.
“El Niño is expected to play a large role in temperatures this winter, but strong blocking of the upper-level pattern over the north Atlantic Ocean that began this summer may also play an important role this winter,” the article stated.
So it may be a little early for the woolly worms and for us to check out the furry little creature, but I for one am hoping for a milder winter.
(Kyle Lovern is the Editor for the Williamson Daily News. He can be contacted at [email protected] or at 304-235-4242, ext. 2277 or on Twitter @KyleLovern)