Press-Republican

Monday

January 27, 2014

Signs, signs, everywhere a sign

Predicting the weather with white woolly bears, pig fat, crickets

PLATTSBURGH — The Old Farmer’s Almanac was right on the kindling this winter: it would be a rough one.

People have been tasked to keep themselves and their dwellings warm. 

Last weekend, offered a reprieve from the bitter cold. People were out and about securing necessaries such as reading material at the Cornerstone Book Shop to get them through the Polar Vortex’s next siege.

Koffee Kat Espresso Bar owner Patty Waldron was busy warming her patrons from the inside out. Asked if she had any indicator that this would be a brutal winter, Waldron said:

“The signs are out there in nature, if we only pay attention.”

I got my sign, creepy and white, Labor Day weekend.

My daughter, Nikki, and I, were landscaping when a woolly bear, like I’ve never seen, scampered along a tree limb in my backyard. It was a blinding white, and my daughter was keen to photograph it.

I told a friend, an avid gardener, about the unusual sighting. He said his mother and father believed a white caterpillar was indicative of a cold or snowy winter or both. He sighted a white-and-gray caterpillar and mused that it made sense from a survival standpoint. If the winter was snowy, its pale color would help it blend with its environment and make it less noticeable to predators.

At Aleka’s, Earl Langdon and his wife, Elaine, a former pediatric nurse, lunched, as Earl, a man of science, mused about the weather.

“I used to teach at the senior high school here in town,” said Langdon, who lives in Jay.

“I taught biology and environmental science and earth science. In terms of the weather, the mountain weather is very unique here because the mountains to our west create their own environment. So as you go from here to the lake, the lake influences, until it freezes over. You go to the High Peaks and west of it; it is the really cold areas of the northeast part of the state.”

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