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JOHNSTON: What next, 2020? Plan on a wicked winter
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JOHNSTON: What next, 2020? Plan on a wicked winter

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Alright, snow lovers, get ready for the winter from hell.

What would be a more perfect way to end 2020 than with the worst winter in 100 years? If it is going to happen, it will be this year.

In the past six months, we have suffered through almost every pestilence known to man, so why would the fates not blast us with the worst winter in memory?

I think it is coming. I really do. My Indian instincts are telling me to get ready.

Bad weather seems to follow pandemics. What many called the worst winter of the 20th century occurred in 1918 when the Spanish Flu killed millions. And in 2009 when the H1N1 virus attacked we had snow out the wazoo. That winter, 2009-10, was the worst so far this century.

Add to all this the fact that we seem to get one bad winter about every seven to eight years and you can see that we are due.

I know all about global warming and I understand that the past several winters have been mild. But no weather trend lasts forever and come October the cold air will begin building within the Arctic Circle. And we’re going to get our share of that cold and snow this time around.

Usually I am cautious and the last time I foresaw a bad winter was in the fall of 2009. That year I predicted almost every snowstorm that occurred almost to the day. Can I do that again? We’ll see.

The weather trends have changed during the past few years and that fact was evident this summer. Storms that built up didn’t move and some communities got slammed with rainstorms that just sat there and dropped 3-5 inches.

Snowstorms, of course, will not be as localized as summer rains but if low pressure systems develop they just might be slow movers, too. This winter I think the Piedmont of Virginia and North Carolina as well as the mountains of West Virginia and Pennsylvania will be bombarded by East Coast storms containing plenty of Gulf moisture.

Yes, I know meteorologists predicted that last year and it didn’t happen. I was skeptical and predicted an easy winter. I was right and they – as well as the Farmers’ Almanac – were wrong. I think I will be right again this year.

As for the Farmers’ Almanac, it always predicts a hard winter so you really can’t go by that. You have to build your winter forecast on scientific facts and proven principles.

Like foggy mornings in August. The old people always said that there would be one snow for every foggy morning in August and usually that prediction is pretty close to the mark.

This year we had seven foggy mornings in August so that means at least seven snows (of varying degrees) this winter.

Then there is the science of the wooly worms and this year the ones I have seen appear to be wearing parkas already.

There is not a great crop of walnuts and hardly any acorns on the trees in my yard this year. Nor do I see many persimmons on the trees down by the creek. Even the nuts and fruits have gone south.

A hard winter is coming. My woodpile is high and I hope it is enough. It was a productive summer so I have plenty of canned vegetables in the pantry so I appear to be in pretty good shape.

Okay, let’s get to specifics.

We could see snow as early at Nov. 14 but our best chance will be Nov. 27-28. Somewhere around Thanksgiving we always seem to get precipitation and this time it may be a few inches of wet snow.

December 1-3 is always a stormy period and if the cold air arrives we might see a nice snowstorm.

Look out for Dec. 9-11, too. This period almost certainly will produce precipitation of some kind and I’m hoping it will be snow.

There is usually an icy period Dec. 17-20 and Dec. 30-31 is ripe for snow.

Sorry, folks. No snow for Christmas.

January will be a very cold month and if we get a storm Jan. 3-5 it may stay on the ground most of the month. This could be a big snow that ushers in frigid air.

A smaller storm may arrive Jan. 13-14 but it should only be three or four inches. Really cold weather is associated with high pressure systems and they are dry. So if we get a really cold blast after Jan. 5 that will keep the totals down for the second storm.

There is usually sleet or ice around Jan. 20, which is followed by a warming period – false spring. The next chance for snow would be Jan. 24-25 but it is not a good one.

February is setting up to be a monster. I believe we’re going to have big snows – 15-20 inches – Feb. 5-7 and possibly again Feb. 10-13. Don’t worry about quarantining. You may not be able to get out at all the first two weeks of February.

But don’t think spring is just around the corner because we could get another eight inches of the white stuff Feb. 19-20.

March 3-4 and Mar. 13-15 will be stormy periods with an outside chance of a little snow on Mar. 20-21.

Remember too that measurable snow can still arrive as late as Apr. 15 although I don’t think there will be any late storms next spring.

How much snow? Forty inches is a good bet with an outside chance for as much as 50 inches. You’re gonna remember this one, friends.

Yes, I could be wrong. It might well be yet another mild winter. But the seismic weather plates are grinding together and sooner or later another bad winter has to hit. I think this will be it.

The only fly in the ointment is the fact that my neighbor bought a big snow-moving machine to be ready.

That could jinx our snowy weather but I don’t think even a big snow pusher will stop the flakes this winter.

Better oil up the outhouse door to make sure it will swing clear in a snowdrift this winter.

And if COVID freezes, it will be gone by spring!

Columnist Donnie Johnston lives in Culpeper County. Email him at

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