What does winter have in store?
This is the time of year when everyone has a prediction about the coming winter. Some trust woolly worms, while others look for signs from acorns, birds, squirrels, animal fur or persimmon seeds.
Some even trust the Farmer’s Almanac. The 2021 edition of The Almanac for Farmers & City Folk gives a general weather forecast for different zones across the country, including zone 15, which encompasses South Carolina, North Carolina and Virginia.
“We expect November and December 2020 to bring below-normal temperatures to start the forecast period, but milder-than-usual weather is predicted for January through the end of June, followed by seasonal temperatures in July and a warmer-than-usual August and September,” the writers of The Almanac stated. “As for precipitation, we expect a drier-than-average November and December 2020, as well as January 2021 to start off the forecast period, but February is expected to be a very wet month.”
But perhaps a better source to reach out to for predicting the upcoming winter weather is the area farmers themselves. Area farmers have developed a wealth of experience that is specific to the central Virginia region.
Ben Manis has a cattle farm, most of which is located in Buckingham County, and he also leases a set of hog houses in Prince Edward County.
He said his most significant basis that he uses for his weather predictions is what has happened in the past several years.
“You’re not going to have giant swings but so much, and if you do have those giant swings, they’re only going to be for a week or so at a time,” he said. “So my prediction is we’ll get wet here in about another three to four weeks. It’ll be very wet, it’ll be very muddy, it’ll be very nasty. It won’t be cold enough to freeze, which is both a blessing and a curse.
“Getting equipment started and all that stuff, that’s harder when it’s frozen, but you can get around on the ground when it’s frozen much better and not tear up grass and not tear up pastureland when it’s wet out.”
He mentioned again that it might be a week or two that throws predictions off.
“But we’re not going to get that four weeks of cold enough that the ground’s frozen most of the day,” he said. “We haven’t had that in probably 10 years now.”
Frankie Large is also a Buckingham County farmer, and he noted it is very mild right now — milder than normal.
“I would say when it turns, it will turn and be cold, if that makes any sense to you,” he said. “I figure it will turn during December. November’s almost gone.”
He also believes snow will come later in the winter.
“I figure it will snow in January sometime,” he said. “I just make a world of hay for my cattle for insurance and prepare for the worst.”
Large said he uses recent years and a sense of balance in weather trends as his guides in predicting the weather.
“To me, nothing is ever here for the mainstay,” he said. “When we go through drought or something like that, relief, it can be 30 days or 60 days off, but most of the time we get relief then.”
Linda Davis spoke on behalf of her husband, Jimmy Davis, who is also a farmer in Buckingham County. She highlighted both fears and hopes in talking about the upcoming weather.
“Our biggest problem has been how wet this whole year has been, and our biggest fear is winter will continue that,” she said. “We appreciate the rain from God, but we’ve had enough for a little bit.”
She said the rain impacts the Davis farm from a hay perspective, impeding the effort to get the hay cut and in the barn without it getting wet.
“It was just a nightmare this year for us, as well as many other people,” she said.
But she has high hopes for relief in December and January.
“I think God’s going to give us a break,” she said. “He’s pretty much in charge of the rain.”
She said her husband has a running joke that weathermen can hardly get 24 hours straight much less three or four days.
“So The Almanac probably does a better job,” she said with a laugh.