Ask Heather - nature's winter predictions

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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) -- You may have heard an old wives' tales or folklore about how nature predicts the coming winter, fog, wooly worms, acorns, squirrel nests, and more.

Gary Balser emailed me talking about the ways they do it in Tellico Plains.

"Here in Tellico Plains we count the fogs, check the squirrel nests and the colors of wooly worms to prepare for our winter," he wrote.

In my opinion, there's something to be said for the old wives' tales, folklore, or farmer's almanac ... whatever you choose to call it. There are people who have monitored a particular element of nature and witnessed how it adjusts because of the weather.

That being said, I think there are some good indications in nature of how the upcoming winter will play out, but it would take consistent monitoring to really compare.

Here are a few of the most commonly referenced predictions from nature:

The number of fogs in Augusts indicate the number of winter snows. A big thick fog means several inches of snow, while a thinner fog is a smaller snow.

If squirrel nests are higher than normal, it's said to be a harsh winter ahead.

Wooly Bear Caterpillars, also known as "Wooly Worms," are said to adjust their color based on the winter ahead. If the brown stripe on them is longer, than it will be milder winter, shorter means a harsher winter.

If you're seeing a lot more acorns and/or the shells are thicker, then expect a rough winter, so the prediction goes.

Persimmon seeds also factor in common lore around this region. There's even a "Persimmon Lady" in North Carolina that sends an annual update to the Farmer's Almanac. To make a prediction, cut the plant embryo in half, and if it's the shape of spoon then it will be heavy, wet snow or shovel worthy. If it's shaped like a fork, it will be powdery, light snow and a mild winter. And if it's knife shaped, then you'll be cut by icy winds. The Persimmon Lady said this is the first time all of hers showed a spoon shape. I've seen several local pictures this fall with a spoon shape inside.

Spiders are said to also to be bigger and build bigger webs, some say the webs are built even higher, if a harsh winter is ahead.

These are just a few examples of what I hear referenced the most. Again, to know whether or not they mean anything for you means you would have to have kept track at your home.

Take the fog prediction, for example: I checked the National Weather Service's monthly climate report for McGhee Tyson Airport and Oak Ridge. There were 23 fogs recorded at both locations. McGhee Tyson had 3 dense fogs, or less than 1/4 mile visibility. Oak Ridge had 6 dense fog recordings! So that would be several big snows along the Knox, Blount line and 6 big snow events around the Oak Ridge site.

Georgiana Pace, Harrogate
Patty Stockton, Morristown
Farmer's Almanac: Persimmon Lady
Keith Whaley, Seymour

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