News From Terre Haute, Indiana

Local & Bistate

March 1, 2014

Winter as persimmons foretold

This year, the seeds gave us the spoon

TERRE HAUTE — When a visitor to the Parke County Covered Bridge Festival opened a persimmon fruit seed last fall, his heart sank.

He saw a spoon shape, which meant lots of snow in the upcoming weather, he was told by a worker at one of the attractions.

According to the Farmer’s Almanac web site, some people say persimmon seeds can be used to predict the severity of winter.

When cut into two pieces, the persimmon seed displays one of three symbols. A knife shape indicates a cold, icy winter (where wind will cut through you like a knife). A fork shape indicates a mild winter. A spoon shape stands for a shovel to dig out the snow.

According to the Covered Bridge worker, everyone she talked to had seen either a spoon or knife shape in their persimmon seeds — more spoons then knives.

Turns out, the persimmon seeds were right on the money.

One weather saying for March, “in like a lion, out like a lamb,” is at least half right.

Whether March goes out “like a lamb” remains to be seen, but meantime, preparations have been underway for a winter storm expected to start “roaring” late Saturday or early this morning.

The National Weather Service issued a winter storm warning in effect from 7 p.m. Saturday until 7 a.m. Monday. Marc Dahmer, meteorologist with the NWS in Indianapolis, predicted about 5 to 8 inches of snow for the Terre Haute area.

“None of the models have come to agreement on how this thing is going to evolve as it comes through the area,” he said Saturday morning.

Several models showed snow from the onset, although one indicated the potential for sleet. The heaviest snow was expected to fall late this morning to early afternoon, and ending Monday morning.

While the temperature Saturday afternoon reached a comfortable 48 degrees, colder weather was moving in, with a high today in the mid-20s and a low this evening under 10 degrees, with a much colder wind chill.

In anticipation of the “fierce” winter storm, Indiana Department of Transportation highway crews pre-treated bridges, interchanges and roadways with salt brine to minimize icy precipitation from bonding to the road once the storm begins.

According to an INDOT news release, National Weather Service offices in Chicago, Fort Wayne and Indianapolis have recorded the highest snowfall totals in more than three decades.

During the storm, drivers were encouraged to avoid optional travel and heed county travel advisories posted at www.in.gov/dhs/traveladvisory.

Some people look to the Old Farmer’s Almanac for their winter weather forecast; the publication comes out in September and was printed last summer.

For the Lower Lakes region that includes Terre Haute, the publication called for “snow showers and cold” for March 1 to 7.

Mare-Anne Jarvela, a senior editor of the publication, said the Almanac doesn’t use weather lore in its forecasts. “We use modern technology” and look at such factors as ocean currents, sunspots, weather history patterns and weather cycles.

“Then we do our forecasts,” she said. “We did predict this cold, snowy weather for most of the country.”

The Old Farmer’s Almanac does include weather lore in articles or calendar pages. People are interested in it, she said.

Years ago, people didn’t have computer models, technology or television, so they looked to nature to help them predict the weather, she said.

According to Stormfax.com, there is a difference between winter weather lore and folklore forecasts.

“Both are interesting and entertaining, and both have been around for thousands of years,” it says.

 But whereas a folklore forecast might be based more on fear and superstition, weather lore is based on observation of the environment and the effects that changes in the weather have on insects, animals, birds and people, it says.

In like a lion, out like a lamb? According to a 2010 article in Farmers’ Almanac (not to be confused with the Old Farmer’s Almanac), the saying seems to be more of a rhyme rather than a true weather predictor.

With March being such a changeable month, the author writes, “You can understand how this saying might hold true in some instances. We can only hope that if March starts off cold and stormy, it will end warm and sunny, but the key word is hope.”

With spring just a few weeks away, hope is in sight.

Sue Loughlin can be reached at 812-231-4235 or sue.loughlin@tribstar.com.

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