Chapel Hill boy, woolly worm predict winter weather

Posted October 18, 2009 9:30 a.m. EDT
Updated October 18, 2009 3:49 p.m. EDT

— A woolly worm trained by a Chapel Hill boy won the races and the privilege of predicting this winter's weather at an annual festival in Banner Elk Saturday.

Noah Jens and his woolly worm Wilbur won the caterpillar races at the 32nd annual Woolly Worm Festival, said the festival founder Jim Morton.

Noah and his caterpillar competed in several heats of races along a 3-foot string on a stage at the festival. The heats went from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. The races usually draw around 1,000 caterpillar entries.

Noah won a $1,000 prize, and Wilbur proved himself the fittest worm to predict the severity of this winter for North Carolina's high country.

It's part of farmer folklore to use the woolly worm to predict the winter weather, according to the festival's Web site.

The woolly bear caterpillar has 13 brown and black segments. Each segment is used to predict the weather for a week of winter. The lighter a segment is, the milder the weather will be. The darker a segment is, the colder and snowier the weather will be.

For this winter in the High Country, Wilbur predicted relative cold temperatures and moderate snow, Morton said.

Week one will start with flurries, followed by cold and flurries in week two. Snow will fall in week three, and flurries in week four. Cold will reign in weeks five through seven, light flurries will fall in week eight, and below-average temperatures will return in weeks nine and 10. Snow will in week 11, and flurries will close out the winter in weeks 12 and 13.

The Woolly Worm Festival runs through Sunday. It typically draws 20,000 visitors and 140 vendors.