Several past Woolly Worm Festivals have provided us with some creative victors with names such as "Hugo" (named after the 1989 Hurricane),"Robo Worm" (named after the hit movie RoboCop) and "Staley’s Comet" among others. I have personally witnessed racing worms with names such as "Wance Wormstrong" and "Jerry Garcia" and we’ve seen some creative entries that were transported to the festival in worm hospitals and training facilities (one with a vial marked "steriods"). It is obvious that many festival goers plan their fun well in advance, while others most likely show up at the last minute, pick a worm up just outside the festival grounds and make a day of the food, fun, fall colors and great weather.
We’ve had fun with some of our past Woolly Worm Festival reports as we’ve offered some good natured ribbing about the fact that festival promoters say that the winning worms have an 85% success rate of correctly predicting the subsequent winter weather. I remember a few years ago when the winning worm was light brown from head to toe and race judges had to do some creative worm-reading to find a black spec of dust on one of the worm hairs so that they could predict some cold and snowy weather for that particular winter. The prediction was way off that winter, but as it turned out, the judges may have been far better off "correctly reading the worm" as it was a mild one to say the least.
Creativity went out the window on this year’s winning worm, as did the need for creative "worm reading". The 31st Annual Woolly Worm festival was called a huge success by those involved as approximately 20,000 caterpillar enthusiasts packed downtown Banner Elk. The winning worm was named "Kelly the Woolly Worm" and its owner/trainer was Kerstin Hartnell. She came from Ansonville, North Carolina with her grandparents and won a bit more than $1000 for her participation. There was no creative planning ahead and the name just came to Kerstin moments after she picked her worm out of a box of worms that were being sold just outside the gates of the festival grounds. She paid some child a dollar for the worm! So Kerstin and Kelly hung around all day and made a 1000% increase on their investment! Maybe we need to elect Kerstin to run the nation’s finances in November! While on the subject of politics, there were reportedly some worms by the names of "Nobama" and "McPain in the Neck" circulating around trying to round up some support to no avail. Since "Kelly the Worm" won the event, it became the official meteorologist for the upcoming winter. Thankfully this time around there was no need for any creative reading of the worm as Kelly was almost ALL black with a few dark brown bands spread around its body!
"Mr. Wooly Worm" himself, Roy Krege, who obviously LIVES for this event – and 7′ 4" tall, former NC State basketball great, Tommy Burleson, crouched down (Tommy more so than Roy) and then read Kelly the Worm.
The official reading revealed the following great winter forecast for us SNOW LOVERS:
Week 1: Dec 21 – Cold and Snowy
Week 2: Dec 28 – Cold and Snowy
Week 3: Jan 4 – Cold and Snowy
Week 4: Jan 11 – Cold and Snowy
Week 5: Jan 18 – Seasonable Temp
Week 6: Jan 25 – and Normal Snows
Week 7: Feb 1 – Ditto Seasonable
Week 8: Feb 8 – Cold and Snowy
Week 9: Feb 15 – Cold and Snowy
Week 10: Feb 22 – Cold and Snowy
Week 11: Mar 1 – Severe Cold & Snow
Week 12: Mar 8 – Cold and Snowy
So the "Snow Lovers" summary is: According to the "Kelly" the Woolly Worm, we should expect a colder and snowier winter than normal with only three weeks in the middle of winter that will be normal temps and snowfall. There is no sign of a mild snap in there whatsoever.
The realistic summary would be: This worm is probably somewhat defective because we always get a period or two of mild temps. The NWS is calling for an about average winter in terms of temperatures with about average snowfall for our region (from Northwest Maryland down to Western NC). The Farmer’s Almanac is calling more snow than normal for the northern tier of our area of coverage (mostly Maryland and West Virginia) and about normal for the rest of us, with near normal temps. Ray Russell of RaysWeather.com is saying that the Western North Carolina mountains should see near normal temps and about 90% of our normal snowfall. That would be better than the last two seasons (BY FAR), but less than the 40 year average. Russell reports that Sugar Mountain should see around 65" of snow this winter and Beech Mountain should get around 72". Russell also said that this would be about 135% higher than the 10 year average but only 90% of the 40 year average. He also reports that temperatures in the region will be from 0° to +1° from normal. So all of this bodes well if you’re into COLD and SNOW!
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