Clark family predicts cold and icy winter on the way

Bill Clark III carries on the family tradition of taking weather observations during the winter solstice, this year aboard the Southern Cross. That’s a northwest wind blowing the flag, meaning a cold, icy winter.

If you don’t like cold and ice, you are not going to like theClark family’s weather prediction for 2010.

During the winter solstice, a Clark family member sets out totake weather readings at the exact time the sun crosses the Tropicof Capricorn. They call the tradition Observation Day.

So just before 12:46 p.m. on December 21, Bill Clark III boardedthe Southern Cross tied to the west slip at South Ferry. The bigflag on the jetty was taken down before the weekend’s blizzard sothe ferry flag would have to do.

Using the flag and a wind gauge, he took his reading – a strongwind blowing out of the northwest at 20 to 30 miles per hour with40 mph gusts.

“A northwest reading was one the old-timers wouldn’t want to see- it means ice, Mr. Clark said.

He predicts a colder than normal winter, “too cold for muchprecipitation, with a better possibility of the bays freezing overthan in recent years.

Sometimes the flag dances around and the reading is likewiseflighty. Not this year – the flag “remained steady; it was a strongreading, Mr. Clark said.

The Clark family tradition of Observation Day goes back at leasta few generations. Mr. Clark has been investigating the tradition’sorigin. He’s traced his family roots to Saybrook and believes thathis ancestors may have learned the technique from the NarragansettIndians. The Puritans arriving in the 1600s learned to fertilizewith fish and cut marsh grass for livestock from natives there, hesaid, so maybe they learned to predict winter weather as well.

The Clark Observation Day prediction has been right about 85percent of the time, according to Cliff Clark.