- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 22, 2003

HAGERSTOWN, Md. — If you liked last winter, you’re going to love J. Gruber’s Hagers-Town Town and Country Almanack, which predicts nearly as much snow and even more cold days this season.

The nation’s second-oldest continuously published almanac says the wintry weather will begin with a storm Dec. 6 and 7, bringing Western Maryland the first of an eventual 70 inches of snow by March 26.

Last winter, 75.3 inches fell in Emmitsburg, Md., hometown of William E. O’Toole, weather prognosticator for the 207-year-old publication.

Mr. O’Toole said yesterday that January will be the snowiest month as a high-pressure system over the equator meets the North Atlantic Oscillation, a stationary low dragging cold air down from Canada.

“When those two collide, they tend to be pretty potent snowmakers,” said Mr. O’Neill, a math and computer-science professor at Mount St. Mary’s College.

The almanac, now in bookstores and online at www.almanack.com, also predicts 95 winter days with temperatures no higher than 45 degrees, or four more cold days than last year. The almanac focuses on Hagerstown but includes weather predictions for the East Coast.

Meteorologists tend to dismiss almanac weather predictions, which are based largely on folklore and are made as much as 18 months in advance.

But last week’s winter forecast from the National Weather Service hardly proved the superiority of science. For most of the nation, including the mid-Atlantic coast, the agency said there are equal chances of above-, below- or near-normal temperatures and precipitation.

The better-known Old Farmer’s Almanac, published for 212 years in Dublin, N.H., says the Northeast and mid-Atlantic states will get an early cold blast but less snow than last winter.

Mr. O’Toole boasted that 57 percent of his daily forecasts for the past year were correct, and predicted 18 winter storms to within a day of their occurrences.

The Hagerstown almanac also announced its Woolly Bear Contest, a gimmick the publishers began 22 years ago to raise their product’s profile. Each October, children are asked to bring the fuzzy caterpillars to the Hagerstown headquarters so a judge can make a winter-weather prediction based on the width of their brown-and-black bands. The biggest caterpillar is worth $100.

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