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Dark days ahead 

I have an odd habit--picked up from my Kentucky grandfather--where for some reason I always look up in the sky, squint and say "Winter's coming" on the first day of summer. The inverse happens as well on the winter solstice, which this year falls on Tuesday, Dec. 21, at 7:42 a.m.

Along with this peculiarity comes a fascination with long-term weather prediction through both scientific and, well, less-scientific means. Like wooly worms.

This year marked the 27th annual running of the worms at the Wooly Worm Festival in Banner Elk. Each year the race winner is used to predict the intensity of the winter season. According to the markings on Sparky, who streaked across the finish line first, the initial four weeks of winter will be cold and snowy, weeks five to 11 cold but no snow and weeks 12 and 13 cold and snowy again.

That's not too far off some of the more official forecasts. Accu-Weather, the commercial weather behemoth, is predicting average precipitation and colder temps with a big swath of the Appalachians slated for heavy precipitation. The National Weather Service has this part of the state in for a slightly colder winter with average precipitation. A handful of local weather celebs also are on board with this outlook.

With the stars and worms lining up, it wouldn't be a bad idea to lay in a load of wood, plug up the leaks in your galoshes and storm windows, toss a bag of kitty litter in the trunk and test out the camp stove in advance.

Apparently, the iceman cometh.

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