Almanacs hit and miss in storm predictions Big one wasn't forecast, but Friday snowfall was

January 14, 1996|By Frank D. Roylance | Frank D. Roylance,SUN STAFF

Here's how the two best-known almanacs did predicting last week's snowstorms six to 18 months in advance using solar and lunar cycles:

* The Old Farmer's Almanac, published in Dublin, N.H., missed the 22-inch back-breaker that fell Jan. 7 in the Baltimore area and the 4 inches that fell on the 9th. The almanac's forecast, for the region from southeastern Pennsylvania to Roanoke, Va., called for the weather Jan. 4-11 to be "clear, then freezing rain, seasonable."

The old farmer scored a bull's-eye, however, with the storm that hit Friday, predicting "heavy rain and snow" between Jan. 12 and 17.

* The Hagers-Town Town & Country Almanack, published in Hagerstown, jumped the gun on the Jan. 7 storm.

It forecast a snowstorm for Jan. 4-5, but only "cold" weather on the 7th, the date the blizzard blasted Baltimore. The Almanack expected a major storm for Jan. 8 to 10. Perhaps it just overestimated the 4 inches on the 9th or was too early on Friday's snowfall. The Hagerstown editors predict another storm for Jan. 16 and 17.

Susan Peery, managing editor of the Old Farmer's Almanac, said, "We called the [Jan. 7] storm for the Ohio River Valley, New York and New Jersey, but we missed the Carolinas, Virginia and you.

"We are predicting above-normal snow for the East for the winter as a whole, so this does put us off to a good start."

Jerry Spessard, business manager for the Hagers-Town Town and Country Almanack, said his prognosticators called four of five storms before Christmas.

His almanac predicts a colder, wetter winter than usual through mid-January, with a seasonal total of 45 inches of snow -- double the average of 22 inches.

That seems to be holding up.

And here are some memories to warm your heart as you prepare go outside to tackle whatever nature throws at you:

* One year ago yesterday, Jan. 13, 1995 -- the thermometer at Baltimore-Washington International Airport rose to 71 degrees, shattering the previous record of 66 degrees, set for the date in 1972.

It was just 6 degrees cooler in Baltimore that day than it was in Key West, Fla., at the same hour. A few confused forsythias sent out blossoms in search of spring.

* Two years ago this weekend, the Baltimore region was shivering in near-record cold, with highs in the teens and lows between zero and 10 degrees.

Wind-chills were running 20 to 30 degrees below zero.

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