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Could these East Tennessee folklore legends predict the weather?

Published: Nov. 30, 2020 at 7:48 AM EST
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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) - Natural signs of a rough winter could be right in front of our eyes.

According to East Tennessee folklore legends passed down through generations, nature has a way of offering signs. Let us know if you’ve heard these before and if you think these are good indicators about the weather:

A lot of acorns on the ground means a tough winter ahead

One old folklore tale says that more acorns than usual on the ground point to a rough winter on the way.

WVLT Viewers sent photos of acorns covering the ground in 2020.

The tales also say to look to squirrels for a clue about what’s coming next: If they’re gathering a lot of nuts, it’s a sign that snow could be coming.

How many acorns means “a lot?” Well, that’s up to you to decide.

Wooly Worms color predicts how bad winter will be

What can wooly worms tell us about the weather? According to folklore, more black coloring on them means a harsher winter.

If you see a lot of wooly worms that are mostly brown, that is said to indicate a more mild winter.

Meteorologist Ben Cathey asked WVLT News viewers what they think about this tale:

Stephanie says:

“I heard that if they was all black we would get lots of snow and bad winter. But if one end was black it would be cold start with brown in middle and if back end was black it would be cold end.”

Mae says she learned the same thing but adds: “I have never checked this for accuracy.”

The caterpillars have a special chemical that allows them to freeze solid in winter. And they don’t die! They wake up in warmer weather and turn into moths – tiger moths to be exact.

This is where it gets weird. Dani pointed out that the all-black fuzzy bears aren’t even the same animal!

The solid colors are not the correct ones to look at.

The solid black and spiny caterpillars are actually a different type of moth, called the leopard moth. Even if there’s no truth to this tall tale, it sure is fun to think about.

Foggy days in August can predict winter snow days

According to weather folklore, counting the number of days with fog in august is a predictor of how many days it may snow come winter.

Looking back, Knoxville recorded 18 days of fog in August at the McGhee Tyson Airport. That means we should see it snow 18 times this winter.

How does that stack-up to previous winters? The answer may differ based on your corner of East Tennessee or southeast Kentucky.

In 2016, it was fairly close, 15 days of fog to 13 snows at least where a trace of amounts were recorded at the airport.

Over the next couple of years, it was more than a bit off the mark. East Tennessee had eight more snows than August fogs in 2017, while we saw nine fewer snows than August fogs in 2018.

Last year it was a bit closer - snows outperforming the number of fogs.

How many will pan out this winter? We’ll just have to wait and see.

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