Almanack predicts snowier winter

September 11, 1998


The weather phenomenon El Niño affected not only last winter's weather, but the accuracy of the forecasts in the 1998 edition of The Hagers-Town Town and Country Almanack.

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In the 1999 edition, which went on sale this week, weather prognosticator Bill O'Toole writes that El Niño blew many of the 1998 almanac's predictions right out of the water.

O'Toole had predicted that 49 inches of snow would fall in the region during the past winter, but said that thanks to the warm winter, only about 10.2 inches fell.


During the winter forecast period from Nov. 18, 1997, to March 26, 1998, the almanac's predictions were on the mark 50.8 percent of the time, O'Toole says in the almanac.

Hagerstown weather observer Greg Keefer puts last winter's snowfall at closer to 13.3 inches.

O'Toole also was off in 1997 when he predicted 61 inches of snow and 27.5 inches fell.

For this winter, O'Toole had predicted that 38 inches of snow will fall in the area, the bulk of it in January. The first storm will hit on Nov. 10 and there will be a white Christmas, according to his calculations.

The weather predictions encompass a 127-day forecast period from Nov. 10, 1998, to March 16, 1999.

The almanac appeals mostly to older readers in the farming community, according to Business Manager Jerry Spessard.

"But were trying to change that as much as we can," he said.

The additions of poetry, information on fishing and helpful hints are designed to broaden its appeal.

In addition, it is hoped that the Web site will pull in children and teens, he said.

The publication has a circulation of 150,000 circulation, with many readers in the Washington, D.C., area, he said. Western Maryland accounts for the second largest group of readers, Spessard said.

The most popular section is the forecast, he said.

"We get calls all the time from people wanting to know what the weather will be on, say June 12, if they have an outdoor wedding planned," Spessard said.

The first Hagerstown almanac was published in 1797 by John Gruber. The $2.25 annual is kept at a low price to make it affordable to older readers, Spessard said.

Competition from newspapers and television have been a problem, Spessard said.

"Being an annual publication doesn't help," he said. "Being annual is archaic, but it's too costly too change."

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