It may not be the seven-month blizzard that a friendly Indian warned Pa Ingalls about.
But it seems possible Western New York could be in for a long – and cold – winter, according to forecasts from the newly released Farmers’ Almanac.
The 197-year-old publication, which bases its predictions on “a top-secret mathematical and astronomical formula,” is calling for old-school winter weather to return with a vengeance in 2014 across two-thirds of the nation, including the Great Lakes and our region.
Followers of the almanac say it boasts an accuracy rate of “80-85 percent.”
Fetch that snow brush that’s been hidden under your passenger seat, dust off those Carhartts and oil up the snowblower: You’re on notice.
“Bitterly cold and snowy,” said Sandi Duncan, managing editor of the Farmers’ Almanac in Lewiston, Maine.
“It just looks like it’s going to be a cold winter for the whole country,” Duncan said.
If that prediction holds, it will be a big score for the National Hockey League, which in 2013-14 will, for the first time, hold a half-dozen regular-season games outdoors, starting with New Year’s Day Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic between Toronto and Detroit at Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor. Others will be played later in January at Yankee Stadium, Chicago’s Soldier Field and Vancouver’s BC Place.
On the other hand, it might also spell a “one and done” for the National Football League’s experiment of hosting the Super Bowl in a cold-weather city. Super Bowl XLVIII, which some have already dubbed the “Storm Bowl” based on the almanac’s forecast, is slated for Feb. 2 at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J.
The almanac forecasts for the Northeast “an intense storm, heavy rain, snow and strong winds” between Feb. 1 and 3 that “could seriously impact” the NFL’s championship game.
Buffalo also is in this “forecast zone,” one of seven such areas mapped by the almanac.
“The days of shivery are back!” exclaims the almanac under its seasonal prediction for the winter, forecasting below-average temperatures that will be “bitterly cold & snow filled” for upstate New York State.
“It’s all how you take it,” Duncan said about the forecast. “It will be kind of nice to go back to the cold winter expected in Buffalo.”
Maybe, maybe not.
Cold winters often bring lake-effect snow, and other effects: icy fingers. Frozen breath. Slow commutes. Slipping. Sliding. And shoveling.
All are badges Buffalonians wear proudly, and they surely wouldn’t want to become soft on the heels of back-to-back winters that, combined, brought about as much snow as a single winter’s average snowfall of roughly 95 inches.
“The last few years, we were obviously very spoiled,” said Tom Paone, a meteorologist with Buffalo’s office of the National Weather Service, who said Tuesday it was “too early right now” to predict winter weather. But he didn’t entirely discount the almanac’s prognostications.
“I’m not saying it’s ‘hocus pocus,’ but it doesn’t examine the same types of things that we do,” Paone said. “With two seasons in a row much below average, from a statistical average, chances are we will be closer to average this year.
“I think we’re all looking forward to having a little more snow than the past years.”
After all, there are plenty of upsides to returning to an average “Buffalo winter”:
• The city’s annual Labatt Blue Pond Hockey Tournament could be played on harbor ice instead of in parking lots for the first time in three years.
• Building your own ice rink that actually stays frozen instead of turning the backyard into a soupy mess.
• More skiing at Kissing Bridge, Holiday Valley, Peak ’N Peak or anywhere else.
• The expected return of Buffalo’s Winterfest & Powderkeg Festival downtown after a year’s sabbatical.
“You used to think it was a lock, but now January, February, March, you can’t count on anything,” said Drew Cerza, Powderkeg organizer, who would relish some help from Mother Nature for the 2014 event. “Two years ago, we had to bring in our own ice machine to make snow.”
It was an event that attracted national media attention: man-made snow for a winter festival in Buffalo.
“I hope it comes true,” said Jane Eshbaugh, director of marketing for Holiday Valley in Ellicottville, who joked she’s pretty sure of it, too, after seeing “a lot of woolly bears and apples on the trees.”
“It’s always good news for us,” Eshbaugh added. “Whether it comes true or not, people get excited for the winter and start planning for it.”
Woolly bear talk aside, Duncan insists there’s plenty of science involved in the almanac’s nearly two centuries-old formula.
Although the exact formula is secret, the almanac uses sunspot activity, tidal action, the position of Earth in the universe and “many other factors” when forecasting.
“We’re not just throwing darts or looking at the woolly worm or how many acorns fall on the ground,” Duncan said.
Still, in an era when most weather forecasting is performed by computers or through the use of satellite or radar imagery, said Duncan, the Farmers’ Almanac carries with it a “magical kind of feel.”