Cumberland Times-News

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September 4, 2012

Almanac: Winter of 2013 could pack heavy punch

Longtime Hagerstown publication predicts 50-80 inches of snow beginning as early as Nov. 28

HAGERSTOWN — Heavy snowstorms, including two December nor’easters, are predicted to blow through the mid-Atlantic region this winter, according to J. Gruber’s 2013 Hagers-Town Town and Country Almanack.

The almanac, which covers September 2012 to December 2013, predicts that the first snow in the region could fall as early as Nov. 28, and snow could continue to hit the area up to the end of March. The forecast includes 15 possible heavy snow days.

 “Last year, we had a very mild winter, and it’s going to be the exact opposite this year,” said Jerry Spessard, business and sales manager of the almanac. “We’re not sure about the temperature or if it’s going to be bitterly cold, but precipitation levels will be up. There’s going to be a lot of rain or snow, depending on the temperature.”

 The amounts of snow and the temperature depend on the size of a developing El Niño, characterized by unusually warm temperatures in the Pacific Ocean along the equator just off the coast of South America, affecting weather around the world, according to the almanac’s weather predictor, William O’Toole.

“I’d probably hedge my bets and say if the El Niño is weak to moderate, there could be snow in the range of 50 or more inches,” O’Toole said. “If it dries out, then there will be less snow and the winter will be drier, but if it is strong, then the winter will be wet and warm.”

O’Toole added that there is a 50-50 chance of the El Niño being weak to moderate, and that it is possible for this winter to be similar to that of 2009-10, during which more than 80 inches of snow fell on some parts of the region.

“This coming winter is giving the same pictures we had three years ago,” O’Toole said. “It’s not certain, but the way things are setting up, it’s quite possible, and maybe even likely, that this winter is similar to the 2009-10 winter.”

Spessard said the precipitation levels are still expected to exceed normal levels.

“Normal precipitation is around 35 to 36 inches,” he said. “(O’Toole) is a very accurate predictor of weather.”

The almanac, which is distributed across the mid-Atlantic region, was made available Tuesday, along with the nationally distributed 2013 J. Gruber’s Garden and Farm Almanac.

Of its 82 pages, 49 are dedicated to weather, including information on the best times to fish and plant throughout the year, Spessard said.

For planting, the last killing frost in 2013 is predicted to be on or about April 8, and the first killing frost later in the year is predicted to be on or about Oct. 5, according to the almanac.

For fishing, May is predicted to be the best month, with 13 days considered good or better.

Spessard said the best times to fish and plant crops can depend on the moon’s position.

“When the moon is in a down position, the gravitational pull is toward the center of the earth, so you want to plant below-ground crops,” he said. “The up side of the moon is the best time to go fishing and plant above-ground crops.”

This is the 217th edition of the almanac, which is printed and sold by The Gruber Almanack LLC.

 Spessard said it has changed in multiple ways, including its language, over time.

 “The almanac was printed in German from 1797 to 1857,” he said. “It was printed in German or English from 1857 to 1921, and since then, it has been printed in only English.”

The almanac’s former business and sales manager, John “Jack” Hershey, died in June. He was 86.

Spessard, 62, said he took over in 1984 from Hershey, who was his former father-in-law, as the almanac’s business and sales manager.

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