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.”
Saranac Lake is notorious for bone-chilling 20 or 30 degrees below zero while temps may be only 3 or 4 below zero in the Plattsburgh area.
“If you go north to Malone and Owl’s Head, you may actually find moments in time, even maybe only an hour, where it can be 50 or 60 below zero in late January, early February,” Langdon said. “It’s the most difficult part of the winter, so you have to be prepared when you step out of the house to experience an extreme cold because of the wind chill.”
For some, the height of a wasp or hornet’s net can forecast wintry conditions.
If the nest is low, it’s going to be a mild winter. If the nest is 20 or 30 feet off the ground that could suggest a cold winter.
“So, it depends on what you see and what you feel it interprets,” Langdon said.
“I only teach the scientific realities, so there forth I don’t believe in the climate-weather conditions that the politicians are expressing but I do believe in climate change. I mean after all, before you can have a glacial age with mile of ice above Plattsburgh, you have to have the Arctic Ocean melt. Because the glacier grows on the land and water has to evaporate the Arctic Ocean and then move southward toward the land. And as it rises, it drops snow. Land is brown, warm. Snow is white, it reflects, and therefore you begin to build up the layers of snow to create glaciers on the land.”
In Rocky Mount, North Carolina, there are folk ways that defy science.
“My grandmother used to have a jar of pig grease and pig fat, and she could look at that jar, as cloudy as it would get, she could tell what the weather was going to be like,” said Chris Bulluck of Dannemora.
“So, the cloudier it got, it would be like really cold or going to snow. Or she could just look at it and tell by the way it swirled around if it was going to rain or if it was going to be a dry season or things like that.”
Bulluck’s grandmother, Lilly Sherrod, also listened to crickets in the fall.
“If you didn’t hear a lot, it was going to be a really long winter,” he said. “Different crazy things like that. It was all wives’ tales.”
Email Robin Caudell:email@example.com
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