Local weather prognosticator predicted storm

January 25, 2000|By ANDREA ROWLAND

Tuesday's snowfall might have taken many Tri-State residents by storm, but it didn't surprise William O'Toole.

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"Every now and then I nail one," said the weather prognosticator for J. Gruber's Hagers-Town Town and Country Almanack.

O'Toole gained national recognition in February 1994 for accurately predicting the dates of the first 14 storms to hit the East Coast, and forecast the tornado that struck Frederick, Md., in August, he said.

In the January 2000 weather conjecture portion of the 203-year old almanac, O'Toole forecast rain or snow for Tuesday. He also predicted last week's snowfall and the dates of the cold temperatures felt across the area since mid-January.

The 13.5 inches of snow that fell in Hagerstown on Tuesday and the high winds that whipped through areas just east of the city created a "borderline blizzard," O'Toole said.


The prognosticator, who has been the almanac forecaster since 1969, had said a blizzard might strike the region this month.

He is sticking by his prediction of 45 inches of snowfall this season and heavy snow or rain from Jan. 28 through 31, O'Toole said.

Through Tuesday night, nearly 18.2 inches of snow had fallen in Hagerstown since December, according to Hagerstown weather observer Greg Keefer.

The National Weather Service on Tuesday predicted sunny skies and temperatures in the upper-30s on Friday with increasing cloudiness on Saturday, according to Andy Woodcock, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service.

Unlike such mainstream weather forecasters, weather prognosticators make long-term predications based upon the centuries-old "Hershel Chart," which targets changing lunar phases.

"I also try to factor in sunspots and Pacific Ocean currents," said O'Toole, a math and computer science professor at Mount St. Mary's College in Emmitsburg, Md. "It's an inexact science."

O'Toole predicts a big snowstorm Feb. 19 through 20 and a wind-driven snow or rain storm on March 17.

He attributes this season's precipitation in part to the weakening of La Nina and the formation of a "horseshoe pattern" in the Pacific Ocean, he said.

La Nina, which consists of colder water along the Pacific Coast, has traditionally been trailed by cold and wet weather with several big snow storms, O'Toole said.

Forecasters also speculate that the horseshoe pattern, an evolving pattern of warm water surrounded by colder water in the central Pacific Ocean, is contributing to the current winter weather, he added.

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