ASHEVILLE, N.C. (AP) — The word from a woolly worm named Lickety Split is that western North Carolina should break out the winter coats and invest in snow shovels.
Lickety Split beat seven other worms Saturday in the finals at the 35th annual Woolly Worm Festival in Banner Elk. The victory meant the worm would be the official forecaster for the upcoming winter.
"It's going to be cold and snowy and a few other things," said Roy Kreger, known as Mr. Woolly Worm.
The caterpillars have black and brown bands, with one color sometimes dominating the other. Folklore says black is associated with snowy weather, while brown is an indicator of mild conditions.
Former N.C. State all-American basketball player Tom Burleson read the rings on Lickety Split. The bands called for snow and below average temperatures for the first five weeks of winter. The next six weeks will be average to below normal, with unusual cold in the 12th week and more snow predicted for the final week, according to Burleson's observation.
"If you own a ski resort and you're a member of the Chamber of Commerce, that's a good prediction," Kreger said. "You ask my wife and she's ready to go south."
Kreger said festival winners and their predictions have an 84.5 percent accuracy rate.
According to the National Weather Service, October will be cooler than normal, but November and December will be slightly warmer than normal.