(WJHL) — Old Man Winter sure has it out for the Tri-Cities this season if brighter fall colors lead to more snow — but that’s just one of the many superstitious beliefs that aim to predict what to expect in the upcoming cold months.
Known as old wives’ tales, these superstitions were passed down from generation to generation, and many used the beliefs of the urban legends in preparation for the possibility of a long winter.
Woolly worm fur
This is perhaps one of the most widely known superstitions that supposedly gives us a look into what lies ahead where winter is concerned. We are all familiar with the beloved woolly worm — also known as the banded woolly bear or, more simply, woolly bear.
The fuzzy black-and-rust colored creatures are larvae of what will eventually transform into the isabella tiger moth come springtime. During the fall months, the color of the caterpillar reveals the severity of the winter ahead, according to legend.
“There are 13 body segments in a woolly worm and 13 weeks in the winter season,” says the Elk Banner Woolly Worm Festival website of the old wives’ tale. “Each body segment of the winning woolly worm corresponds to that week’s weather.”
Woolly worms with more black fur indicate a harsh winter, and more of the rusty orange color predicts a mild winter. Science does not back this, but Woolly Worm Festival organizers say the worm’s fur has been spot-on for the better part of 20 years.
“…The woolly worm has a pretty good weather prediction rate,” says the website. “Scientists would prefer not to acknowledge it, but the woolly worm has [an] 80-85% accuracy rate for predicting the weather.”
For those not too familiar with fruit, a persimmon is an orange-red color and resembles the look of a tomato with a unique taste and texture. As an old wives’ tale has it, cracking open a locally grown persimmon seed tells all in regard to what to expect from the cold months in a specific area.
Upon halving the seeds, the core can show one of three common shapes: a spoon, a fork or a knife.
Urban legend claims that each shape determines the type of winter to expect. A spoon, which resembles a shovel, indicates a lot of snow; a knife predicts piercing cold weather; a fork means to expect a mild winter.
The Tri-Cities could see quite a bit of snowfall in the coming months, according to one old wives’ tale. Why’s that? The second half of August saw fog almost every day, according to Storm Team 11 reports.
Some believe that a foggy August foresees a blizzard-filled winter — the more fog, the more snow.
This legend says that each foggy day indicates one snowy day in the winter.
Of course, this is just folklore, but for those who believe, it’s a way to prepare for a mild — or not-so-mild — cold season.
Bright fall foliage
Expect peak foliage in the lower elevations of the Tri-Cities from Oct. 22-23. While the season is right at its pinnacle concerning the vibrance of color, the beauty has been appreciated by many for the past several weeks.
Some believe that the brighter the foliage, the more snow an area is slated to see during wintertime. If this is the case in the Tri-Cities, be sure to bundle up, and get your shovels and windshield scrapers ready.
Acorns and acorn-gathering
One old wives’ tale leaves the answer to what kind of winter to expect right at your feet. Looking down and seeing an acorn with a thicker-than-usual shell means to brace for a frigid winter, according to this urban legend.
Also involving acorns, keep an eye out for how much furry critters scurry to collect. This old wives’ tale says that the more acorns a squirrel stores away, the longer the winter will last.
Ground Hog Day
Picture this: We’ve already weathered a majority of the winter season, and now it’s time to see just how much longer Old Man Winter plans to stay.
What better way to predict the weather than to turn to the reliable groundhog affectionately regarded as Punxsutawney Phil?
On Feb. 2 each year, it is tradition to observe Phil emerge from his den; what follows can go one of two ways. If Phil sees his shadow, he will return to his den, indicating six more weeks of winter. A cloudy day, however, won’t produce a shadow, and Phil will stay out for a bit. The latter predicts an early spring.
There are countless old wives’ tales that supposedly give insight into the winter ahead. Despite what you believe, it is certain that winter — no matter how mild or severe — is just around the corner.