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The Franklin News-Post
P. O. Box 250
310 Main Street, SW
Rocky Mount, Virginia 24151
540-483-5113
Fax: 540-483-8013

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Forecasters or Almanac?
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Wednesday, January 29, 2014

By MORRIS STEPHENSON -

Back before the arrival of the New Year, Vicki at BB&T in Ferrum gave me one of the bank's Farmers' Almanac calendars. It was the first one I've ever owned, although I've always wanted one.

The once coveted calendars were a necessary item for farmers. There were those who swore by what the Farmers' Almanac predicted when it came to the weather. In fact, the 365-day weather was so popular back in the day, I couldn't even get a copy!

When the first of the year rolled around, I removed the rubber band and had to work for a long time to get the curl out of the paper so I could hang it. But the very first thing I did was go through the first three months to see when snows were shown and on what dates.

Boy, did it ever get off on the wrong foot! There was one predicted on Jan. 1, when we had a nice sunny but cool day. It did come fairly close on Jan. 2 when we got rain. That was only one day and several degrees off in temperature.

The calendar didn't miss with its predictions by very much for the next couple weeks into January. Then all the national and local weather predictors started predicting a week in advance of an approaching "clipper" or "polar vortex" and then extremely cold temperatures.

As days passed, meteorologists nailed down the arrival date as last Monday and noted it would be arriving later in the day in the Franklin County area. We also were on the boarder line of receiving either 1-3 or 4-6 inches of snow, depending on where you lived. When I heard the date of the snow's arrival, I rushed to where the calendar was hanging in the kitchen and that block for the 21st showed "clear." Well now, someone is seriously wrong, but which one?

Forecasters were calling for a bitter cold Monday night and Tuesday morning...perhaps in single digits. Then it was put on your "long Johns" because Wednesday's high was, at best, the mid-20s. Also on Monday, the day before the great white blanket was to arrive, the sun was bright enough for a dark shade of glasses. There was some wind in the air. Before the sunny day was over, the temperature had climbed to 56 degrees at my house in Ferrum. It was a beautiful winter's day!

But there was a face-off between the predictors and the almanac when it came to Tuesday. The forecasters were saying snow and the calendar was saying sunny. I guess it ended up being a stand-off. We had a sunny morning continuing into the early afternoon. Then about 3 p.m., the first sign of snow appeared in little tiny white specks on "Goldie's" windshield. Then it looked like a light fog as the snow increased in size and volume. Then came signs this snow was going to stick so I decided to head west to Ferrum.

That is when the big flakes started to fall and I figured "now we're going to get it."

The overnight temperatures did not reach the 7 degree mark as the Roanoke TV stations were predicting. My thermometer showed 16 degrees at 6:30 a.m. Wednesday but the wind chill factor felt like it could be zero.

Snow in the driveway was frozen solid. I had between 2-3 inches of snow in the yard. It. was deep enough that no grass was visible. "Mr. Victor" was leaving clear prints in the snow as he sniffed the ground to see what type of critters had been in our yard. He didn't have to sniff because I could have told him we were in virgin snow. And thank goodness it didn't take him long to take care of business.

I warmed "Goldie" up before leaving the house about 7:45 and slipped the transmission into 4-wheel drive. Old Craft Shop Road appeared to be coated in ice. But it was of the crunchy variety so I had no problem.

One thing I didn't want to do was apply the brakes at the bottom of the hill and then go sliding into Route 40 with traffic coming. But there was no traffic. And there was no sign of snow on Route 40. In fact, most of the 10-mile trip to Rocky Mount was made on dry road. The combination of wind and the liquid brine VDOT apparently spread on the roads Monday did the trick.

The farther east I traveled, the less snow I saw, and I couldn't believe it when I got to Rocky Mount and could see a dark-colored Grassy Hill. The same was true of the mountain range dividing Franklin County and the Roanoke Valley. To get a snow picture for the newspaper, I had to make a return trip to Ferrum.

On the return trip, I was thinking that both the weather forecasters and the Farmers Almanac calendar were kind of right but not on the money. So I go back to my old saying, "Only God knows what the weather is going to be, and he's not sharing that with any forecasters." So I guess I'll keep listening to the TV predictors and checking the calendar each day. That way I may get an idea what to expect.

For Your Information - (FYI for more modern folks) I checked my calendar and it called for snow Saturday, the warmest day we've had recently. And the Almanac is calling for snow on Feb. 4, 8 & 9 with no snow with just flurries on the 9 and 10 of March.

Just how accurate can a forecaster be using just a single word to describe the weather? That should give you a real clue about the calendar I have!

My little brother Stafford and his wife, Tess, traveled to Evansville, Ind., last weekend for a dedication of a special memorial at the University of Evansville for those who died in the Dec. 12, 1977, plane crash. Many local sports fans probably still recall the tragic event. The basketball team, coach, faculty members and supporters of the program all perished, including popular Bobby Watson, a former Ferrum Junior College coach. Bobby replaced Carl Tacy as the Panthers' head coach when Carl accepted a position at Wake Forest University.

Then Bobby resigned from Ferrum to accept an offer from Carl to be his assistant with the Demon Deacons. That is where my little brother was serving at the time as a graduate assistant under Carl. Stafford and Bobby became good friends. Bobby was selected to head the University of Evansville's Purple Aces basketball program, and little bro was Bobby's pick to be his assistant.

On the morning of the plane crash, Bobby told Stafford he was going to coach the team that night by himself. He wanted Stafford to take the next flight to Florida to look at a possible recruit in Florida who was a big kid they wanted for the next season.

My brother told me when he arrived in Florida, he attended the game, took the player and his parents out to eat afterwards then checked into another motel after learning the one where he planned to stay was full.

Being dead tired, he retired for the night without turning on the TV. He overslept the next morning, rushed to get ready to eat before leaving on the return trip home. He picked up two copies of a daily newspaper, and it wasn't until then did he learn of tragic plane crash.

I'll never forget that night. I was working late at "The Franklin County Times" when I learned of the crash with only three survivors. I wanted to believe my brother was one of them. As the news continued to break, the survivor count dropped to two, then one and finally no survivors.

Between news updates, I had repeatedly tried to call my parents, only to hear repeated busy signals. Finally, to make a long story short, my parents called to say they had just heard from Tess. She told them Stafford was in Florida and not on the plane. She also told them she couldn't get in touch with him because the motel did not have him registered.

I've forgotten how many memorials and funerals my little brother attended over a short period of time. Although I knew he was alive, I guess it didn't dawn on me until a week or so later when my brother walked into the newspaper office. That's when it all hit home.

After a couple of years, he took over a State Farm agency in High Point, N.C., where he remains. He's never looked back or had any regrets about leaving the coaching profession. Little bro never lost his love of sports. He still loves basketball and does the "color" radio broadcast part of the High Point University basketball games.

LPR & KS Racing Together - I received word last week that this coming season Kingsport Speedway will be racing every Friday night and Lonesome Pine Raceway every other Saturday night. Keith Stiltner, a LMSC driver, and his family will be operating the two speedways under NASCAR rules with a woman promoting the two tracks. I'll be interesting to see how they fare. Stiltner, who raced at LPR when I was there, has a son now driving and I assume Ervin, the father, is backing the venture.

The best part of it all was the news came during this long bone-chilling cold weather, and it reminded me I had a warm Lonesome Pine coat hanging in a closet. I wore it on a regular basis during the winters in Wise County. That's why I'm wearing it again now, not to promote the race track!

Did you ever wonder why boots worn by real cowboys (and lots of others these days) do not have tread on the soles? I've worn them for years, and they sure are slick in the snow, mud or on wet floors.

 
Adam Lynch - Click for Website
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Harvester Center - Town of Rocky Mount - Click for Website
Weichert - Click for Website
Penny Hodges - Click for Website
Angie McGhee-Quality Realty - Click for Website
Alpine Photography Studios - Click for Website
A-Co Heating & Cooling - Click for Website