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Yet another sure sign

We are into September and the now-cliched scourge of pumpkin-spiced everything has returned, which means fall and winter are really not that far off.

Another couple of not-so-subtle reminders came last week, when the Farmers’ Almanac and its arch-rival, the Old Farmer’s Almanac, released their weather forecasts for late 2019 and 2020.

The almanacs, it seems, are in general agreement about what lies ahead.

We learned that the Farmers’ Almanac, which has been published since 1818, is predicting a polar-coaster of a winter.

What that means, the editors say, is that we can expect frigid temperatures and snow for much of the season, with the heaviest impact coming from the area of the country that sits between the Rocky and the Appalachian mountains.

And, while we seem to be sitting in the area that can expect the worst weather, those who live in the western third of the country can expect to see near-normal temperatures and precipitation.

“We expect another wild ride this winter, with extreme temperature swings and some hefty snowfalls,” Pete Geiger, editor of the almanac, said in a press release.

According to the graphic released Monday, our region’s outlook is either frozen and snowy; frosty, wet and white; or brisk and wet. The reason for the uncertainty we face is that the almanac places Ohio, West Virginia and Pennsylvania in separate forecast regions. Whatever way you look at it, though, the winter forecast calls for cold temperatures and snow.

Especially when you consider that the forecast is calling for a very unsettled weather pattern to emerge early in January, calling for the periods of Jan. 4-7 and 12-15 with lots of snow, rain, sleet and ice, with strong and gusty winds. The coldest weather is expected to arrive at the end of January and last into the first part of February, and spring will come late.

Janice Stillman, editor of the Old Farmer’s Almanac, meanwhile, says this winter will feature lots of precipitation.

“This winter will be remembered for big chills and strong storms bringing a steady roofbeat of heavy rain and sleet, not to mention piles of snow,” she said.

The Tri-State Area can expect weather described as wintry on that publication’s prediction map. It adds “there’ll be no escape from shivers, snowflakes and slush: “Snowy, icy and icky” conditions, “wet and wild” periods, and “a parade of snowstorms” will transform the landscape.

Like its upstart competitor, Old Farmer’s, which was first published in 1792, is predicting cold weather will settle in across our part of the country from just after New Year’s Day until Valentine’s Day. It adds spring will come late.

Old Farmer’s divides the country differently from Farmers’. Old Farmer’s puts us in the Ohio Valley Region, which includes the Tri-State Area.

If you are like me, anytime you run across a forecast like this, you stop and wonder just how could anyone think they could accurately predict the weather 16 months in advance. Editors at the Farmers’ almanac say they do not rely on computers, weather folklore or even a groundhog. Forecasts are arrived at using a “specific and reliable set of rules that were developed back in 1818 by David Young, the almanac’s first editor.”

Those rules, the almanac reports, have been altered just slightly and developed into a formula that takes into account sunspots, the tidal action of the moon, the position of the planets and other factors. It’s a closely guarded secret known only to Caleb Weatherbee, the pseudonym of the actual prognosticator.

Old Farmer’s says its predictions are based on a formula created by founder Robert B. Thomas that has been refined and enhanced to include state-of-the-art technology and modern scientific calculations.

How accurate are the almanacs? Farmer’s says its followers report an accuracy rate of between 80 and 85 percent, while Old Farmer’s reports an accuracy rate of 80.5 percent last year.

In case you’re interested, Farmers’ has predicted unseasonably chilly air will descend on our region during the next few days, while Old Farmer’s is calling for sunny skies and warm temperatures during the next few days.

So, there it is, the always-much-anticipated long-range predictions from the almanacs, and, to recap, they seem to be calling for colder temperatures with rain and snow and ice, with the worst winter weather of the season expected to hit between the middle of January and the middle of February.

Makes you wonder, just a little — is it just me, or doesn’t that seem like every winter we experience in the Tri-State Area?

(Gallabrese, a resident of Steubenville, is executive editor of the Herald-Star and The Weirton Daily Times.)

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