- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 25, 2001

HAGERSTOWN, Md. Central Appalachian and Middle Atlantic states are in for a colder, snowier winter than last year, the nation's second-oldest almanac predicts.
The 205th edition of J. Gruber's Hagers-Town Town and Country Almanack is hitting newsstands across the region this week with the chilly forecast, a higher price tag and a new verse in its presidential poem.
The 64-page paperback booklet also has a new editor, Charles W. Fisher Jr., a sixth-generation descendant of the founder. Mr. Fisher said he struggled to meet deadlines while attending to his full-time job as an IBM sales executive.
"I'm still getting my feet on the ground," he said.
He had help, though, from seasoned contributors including weather prognosticator William O'Toole. The Mount St. Mary's College math and computer science professor has been making the almanac's weather predictions since 1969, based on a formula devised by an 18th-century German astronomer.
Mr. O'Toole predicts 55 inches of snow this winter in Emmitsburg, the mountain town where he lives, and 113 days with temperatures no higher than the low 40s.
Last year, Mr. O'Toole predicted 50 inches of snow, but only 32.7 inches fell. "You can't be that accurate every year," he said.
Almanac buyers will pay $2.95, or 70 cents more than last year, for Mr. O'Toole's forecasts and the lunar tables, farming tips, household hints and folksy wisdom that are staples of the publication.
Business manager Gerald Spessard said the price increase the first in six or seven years reflects difficulty in finding advertisers and distributors. Sales likely will fall below 100,000 this year, compared with a peak of more than 250,000 in the 1970s, he said. The almanac is distributed in parts of Maryland, Delaware, Pennsylvania, Virginia and West Virginia.
"It's because our readership is getting older and because our distributors have consolidated," Mr. Spessard said. Local distributors acquired by big companiesdon't appreciate a regional almanac, he said.

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