Folklore, Farmers’ Almanac warn Idaho could have another ‘Snowmaggedon’ this winter

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Posted at 1:57 PM, Sep 03, 2020
and last updated 2020-09-03 15:57:57-04

This article was originally published by Nicole Blanchard and Hayley Harding in the Idaho Statesman.

It’s hard to know for sure so far out, but we may be in for a rough winter.

Bruce Wong, executive director of the Ada County Highway District, told the district’s commissioners that some of the earliest signs are there, at least if you follow the lore: Leaves are turning colors a bit earlier than usual, and ACHD team members have noticed wasp nests built a little higher than they’ve been in years past.

“I hate to bring this up, but this is incredibly similar to 2017, the fall before Snowmageddon,” Wong told the commission during a work session Wednesday as he updated them on winter operations. “As a head’s up, this is what the forecast is looking at now.”

During the winter of 2016-17, Boise saw unusually cold temperatures and a collective 39.1 inches of snow — about double the usual amount, according to the National Weather Service. Many Treasure Valley residents found themselves snowed in or stuck on unplowed streets — a problem ACHD later vowed to avoid in the future as it altered its snowplowing plans and bought additional equipment. The snow led to state of emergency declarations in Boise, structural damage to buildings around the state and later caused massive flooding in the Treasure Valley when it began to melt.

The thought of a repeat might understandably strike fear into some Idahoans’ hearts, but there are reasons to be skeptical of that prediction.

Natalie Shaver, spokeswoman for ACHD, said the agency takes numerous forecasts into account when planning seasonal operations. The Farmers’ Almanac is just one of them.

“We always review predictions from various sources including the Farmers’ Almanac,” Shaver wrote in an email. “We like to see what they may be calling for, but our winter plans are not based on them. We always plan for the worst and hope for the best.”

The Farmers’ Almanac, which was first printed in 1792, has a spotty record when it comes to local weather forecasts. Ahead of the 2017 “Snowpocalypse,” the periodical called for a mild winter. In 2018, it predicted below-average precipitation ahead of record snowfall across the state in February 2019. This year, the forecast for Idaho seems to contradict itself.

“The Great Lakes region will get its fair share of snow but expect above-normal snowfall if you live in the western Dakotas, northern portions of Colorado and Utah, as well as Wyoming, Montana, Idaho, and central and eastern sections of Washington and Oregon,” reads the forecast on the Farmers’ Almanac website.

A map on the same post shows some parts of Idaho having a cold winter with above-normal snowfall, while other parts (including Southwest Idaho) could have a mild, dry season. Meteorologists with the National Weather Service told the Statesman winter is too far out for accurate weather predictions.

Wong said even another harsh winter won’t shut Boise down as it did in 2017.

“Your maintenance team is absolutely ready,” he told the commission. “They are already working on plans for operations.”