Winter weather predictions

(Photo by Beth Blis)

What will this winter bring? Will snow blanket the mountains and valleys in inconvenient beauty, or will mild temperatures and sweatshirt weather auger the inconvenient truth?

While this sort of talk is idle speculation for most, best voiced between sips of black coffee while sitting on milk crates in the back of a general store, for others, snow is serious business.

Village Department of Public Works supervisor Bob Ciarlante doesn’t care what the forecasters say: he and his crew are ready for the worst. The salt and grit have been stockpiled, and the plow trucks are ready to go. And figuring that some costs might go up, he’s even budgeted a little more this year than last.

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Last year, when the winter was fairly mild and snow-free, “Bobby C.” (as he’s known to pretty much everyone around the village) allocated $25,200, of which approximately $24,000 was used. The remaining amount went back into the village’s general fund. While overtime for his workers was not covered by that number, included was the cost of salt, grit, cold patch to fix wintertime potholes and repairing damaged plow parts. This year, hedging his bets, Ciarlante budgeted $25,700. Does this mean he expects more snow? All you get is a shrug.

The venerable Old Farmer’s Almanac, which has been the nation’s go-to weather prognosticator since 1792 and claims to be correct 80 percent of the time, forecasts a colder but drier winter than last.

But a relatively new kid on the block, AccuWeather, begs to differ: It’s calling for above normal snowfall. AccuWeather meteorologist Meghan Evans says Sandy foreshadowed the precipitation that is to come. This winter, the AccuWeather meteorologists expect the northern branch of the jet stream will meet up with a southern branch of the jet stream, which will bring storms up the east coast, right to our little bit of paradise on the Hudson.

“Think of it as two smaller rivers merging together into one larger one,” said long-range forecaster Paul Pastelok.

Because of warm water in the mid-Atlantic and around New England, Pastelok believes that storms will form rapidly. “I think that is something we are going to see here happen on occasion,” he said — particularly in January, and maybe once in December and February.

In order to have large amounts of snowfall, it must be cold, something that both the Old Farmer’s Almanac and AccuWeather agree upon.

The Old Farmer’s Almanac says the snowiest times of the winter should be mid-to-late December, mid-to-late February and early March.

December, according to the Almanac, should see an average temp of 26.5 degrees, which is 1.5 degrees below average; however there should be four inches of precipitation, of which most will be rain.

January should see temps averaging 22 degrees, according to the Almanac, or about 1 degree below average with 2.5 inches of precipitation, of which most will be a mixture of rain and snow.

February will be cold, really cold, with temps hovering around the 15-degree mark or 8 degrees below average. Precipitation is predicted to be about 1.5 inches or one inch below average, but it will be all snow.

March, which is supposed to come in like a lion and go out like a lamb, will see an average temp of 37 degrees, which is three degrees above average, according to the Almanac. There will be a mixture of snow and rain averaging about 3.5 inches, which is ½ inch above average.

Neither AccuWeather nor the Almanac will actually say how much snow we will get this winter, but if the Mayans are correct it won’t matter, because none of us will be here past the first day of winter any way. However, if they got it wrong, break out the snow shovel just in case, put the winter tires on the car, buy some salt for the sidewalk, and make sure the long underwear and hot chocolate are ready to go.

Be like Bobby C: prepare for the worst, and hope for the best.

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