The 'Purr-fect' Storm

Published 2:15 pm Thursday, September 4, 2014

It’s been another crazy year for weather.

Whether we like it or not, we don’t have much choice — weather-wise, we pretty much have to take what comes along. This week, for instance, its’ been hot when it should be cool. The year so far, in fact, has followed a similar pattern of inconsistency.

Looking back at 2014, Winter Storm Leon paralyzed Atlanta in January and left motorists stranded overnight on the expressway. Also in January during the rainy season in California, there was no rain for 52 days. In April, showers brought more than May flowers to Pensacola, Florida, with 15 inches of rain in one day and the collapse of Scenic Highway. Along the same weather vein, a Memorial Day visit to Lake Superior’s beachfront in Marquette, Michigan, included ice chunks floating in the water. In June a waterspout occurred at the highest spot ever recorded — Dollar Lake (elevation: 7,782 feet).

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To sum things up, the weather this year has been anyone’s guess.

In 2014, both the Old Farmer’s Almanac and its younger cousin, the Farmer’s Almanac are looking pretty good. The Old Farmer Almanac, which started predicting weather 223 years ago, depends on a “secret formula” using sunspots and weather patterns. The Old Farmer, by the way, has an 80 percent success rate in long-range forecasts. The 198-year-old Farmer’s Almanac also predicted last winter’s cold snowy weather. Their formula for long-range predictions includes sunspots, planetary positions and lunar cycles.

Both almanacs released their 2014 editions last week, and both have some dire predictions for the winter ahead.

“This winter is shaping up to be a rough one,” stated Old Farmer’s Almanac Editor Janice Stillman.

“Shivery and shovelry,” added Farmer’s Almanac Managing Editor Sandi Duncan. “We’re calling for some frigid and bitter conditions.”

As winter approaches, most country folks look to nature as well as the almanacs to predict the winter ahead. Squirrels, hoot owls, and wooly-worm caterpillars are all popular prognosticators. But can animals really predict weather?

I was skeptical until I met a cat named Sylvester.

Sylvester wandered onto our farm a year and a half ago. We were still mourning the loss of another black and white cat named Sylvester who died shortly before Christmas. Grey Guy was especially devastated. Sylvester and the big grey cat were the best of friends and spent their days exploring the farm.

It was Christmas Eve and I had gone outside to check on the cats before bedtime. I could hardly believe my eyes when I saw a black and white cat sitting quietly beside the cathouse.

Looking through the window, Grey Guy saw him, too, and meowed so plaintively I opened the door. Letting two tomcats meet under such circumstances is not usually a good idea, but there was something almost magical in the air that night. The big grey cat dashed out the door and greeted Sylvester as he always had — nose to nose. Sylvester II was startled by such an unusual greeting from a fellow tomcat but didn’t run. After a few minutes of eye-to-eye contact, Sylvester II quietly turned and slipped back into the woods.

Grey Guy seemed disappointed, but not that upset. Somehow he sensed his new friend would be back.

The new Sylvester did return, stopping by every day or so for a meal. While still skittish around humans, the big black and white cat settled in nicely with the other outside cats.

As time went by we noted that Sylvester had an uncanny knack for predicting the weather. One spring day, even before storm clouds threatened on the horizon, I found Sylvester sitting in the cathouse. Carefully I shut the door, and Sylvester promptly settled down on the nearest cat bed to weather the storm he knew was headed our way.

This scenario was repeated over and over again as fall gave way to an unusually snowy winter. We began to joke about our weather-wise cat.

“Sylvester checked himself into the cathouse this morning,” I would report to my spouse.

Sure enough, snow would be falling by lunchtime. Once inside, Sylvester would settle down to enjoy the creature comforts there (heat in winter, AC in summer, two meals a day, and maid service).

“Creature comforts,” as every cat knows, is what surviving winter is all about. In fact, I wouldn’t be a bit surprised to learn that the Old Farmer has a cat or two helping him out with those forecasts.

Summer, spring, fall, or winter, the weather is still anyone’s guess, but when Sylvester heads for the cathouse, I know it’s time to prepare.

A “purr-fect” storm is sure to arrive.