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One fur the money

November 17, 1999


Photo by KEVIN G. GILBERT / Staff Photographer

Marshal Lawrence didn't have to search long and hard to find the "Biggest and Woolliest," woolly bear caterpillar in Washington County.

"It was on my front porch. It was the only one I could find," said Lawrence of Hagerstown.

The seventh-grader at Springfield Middle School entered his woolly bear in the 17th Annual Woolly Bear contest, sponsored by the Hagerstown Town & Country Almanack.

He received a $100 cash prize.

The runner-up in that category was Meagan Mendiola, 1, of Sharpsburg.

Marshal has always loved insects and animals, and has nursed injured birds back to health, his father Mark Lawrence, said.

Marshal Lawrence said he doesn't know what he'll do with his prize money.

The winner in the "Cutest and Cuddliest" category was Jeremy Johnson, 9, of Clear Spring.

The fourth-grade student at Clear Spring Middle School also received $100.


Runner-up was Jennifer McSparron, 7, of Hancock.

Runners-up were awarded six copies each of the almanac.

About 150 woolly bears were entered in this year's contest.

The contest was devised to collect large amounts of woolly bears to be used to predict the weather.

Woolly bear forecaster Frank Leiter analyzes the woolly bears and makes his predictions based on the woolly bears' bands.

Some believe that the severity of a coming winter can be predicted by looking at the bands on woolly bears.

This year, the front band, representing the first half of winter, was slightly longer than normal. The back band, representing the second half of winter, was significantly shorter than normal.

Leiter said the woolly bears indicated that the first half of the winter from Nov. 15 to Jan. 15 will be colder, wetter and more severe than normal.

From Jan. 16 to the end of March, the woolly bears show a very mild winter with above-average temperatures and little snow.

Leiter said there were fewer entries this year than usual. As many as 1,000 woolly bears were sent in three years ago.

He said warm fall weather and lack of precipitation may have been the cause.

The woolly bears and the almanac agree on the winter predictions, said Jerry Spessard, almanac business manager.

The almanac predicts there will be 84 cold days this winter with 45 inches of snow and 20 storms.

Bill O'Toole, the almanac's weather prognosticator, said the season's first snow storm will hit on Dec. 15 and there will be a white Christmas, with snow falling from Dec. 25 to Dec. 28.

He predicts that New Year's will be cold but no snow will fall.

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