Almanac Predicts Harsh Winter

Winter Forecast
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Tune up the snowblower and get out the long johns. The newest edition of the Farmers' Almanac predicts a cold winter with plenty of snow.

Beginning in February, the almanac says, storms will target much of the eastern half of the country, with no letup until early spring, and parts of New England will get snow into late April.

The West also faces a cold, snowy winter, according to the almanac. Bucking the trend is the Southeast, where mild weather is predicted.

The almanac, which hits the newsstands Tuesday, provides little solace for snow-weary New Englanders still thawing out from last winter.

``The big story in the Northeast is that February looks like it's going to be a never-ending series of storms that will be reminiscent of last year, when just about everybody was ready to head for Hawaii,'' said Sandi Duncan, the almanac's managing editor.

The forecast calls for a showery spring followed by an extremely warm and humid summer. It says one and possibly two hurricanes may threaten the East Coast in the first half of August.

The almanac has been predicting the weather for 187 years. Its forecasts, written under the name Caleb Weatherbee, are prepared two years in advance. The formula remains a well-guarded secret, even from almanac editors, but is linked to sunspots, the position of the planets and tidal action of the moon.

While the National Weather Service doubts that anyone can predict weather with any degree of accuracy so far in advance, the almanac claims to get it right about 80 percent of the time.

Last year, it warned folks from Maine to Colorado to expect colder-than-normal temperatures and snow.

Readers have relied for decades on the long-term forecasts to set wedding dates and plan vacations, said editor Peter Geiger.

While still heavy on nostalgia and traditional values, with a few gardening tips thrown in, the almanac has broadened its appeal to younger audiences, its editors said. The median age of its readership - circulation of the 192-page retail edition is about 1 million - has dropped from about 45 to 35 over the past decade.