As the Worm Turns:
Is This The REAL Forecast For Winter?

By Peter Gregutt
As Published in Blue Ridge Magazine Winter 1965-66

It's official.  In 1996 we're in for a lot more cold and snow before this winter winds down - at least that's the word from the Woolly Worm Festival in Banner Elk, NC.

The highlight of the annual event, which draws more than 15,000 people from across the US and several foreign countries, is the "running of the worms." Some 960 fuzzy brown and black caterpillars went head to head through 48 grueling heats, racing up three foot, vertical strings to determine the grand prize winner and official predictor.  The winning "worm", Casey - owned and raced by 4 year old Kalli Elfervig of Bradenton, FL, - earned his excited owner $575.00 in prize money.  As for Casey, he gleaned an earful of cheers, plus the honor of having his stripes read by Banner Elk Mayor Charles Voncanon, a cheery octogenarian who learned the Appalachian art of read the worms from his grandfather.

Here's a head shot of the wooly worm, together with the salient points of Voncanon's forecast (1966). If you're a skier, it's sure to put a smile on your face.  The rest of you will have to make do with perusing gardening catalogs for a couple of more months.

The Forecast (starting with the week of Dec. 22, 1995 and extending until the vernal equinox, 13 weeks later):

The first 5 bands are coal black, indicating 5 weeks of below normal cold and lots of snow.  The next 5 bands are dark brown, indicating 5 weeks of normal winter weather.  And the final 3 bands are coal black again, indicating a last burst of below normal cold and abundant snow to wrap up the last 3 weeks of winter.

This proved to be one of the worst winters for this area - Next to the Storm of 1993.


Now you know how to read the woolly worms forecast!