LEWISTON, Maine -- Wave goodbye to El Nino and keep your overcoat and shovel handy: The Farmers' Almanac is predicting another rough winter, even though its similar forecast last year missed the mark.
Editor Peter Geiger throws some of the blame for the blunder to El Nino, which made its debut in March of last year -- right after the 1998 almanac had gone to the printer.
But with autumn just around the corner, the mysterious El Nino is on the wane -- and the signs don't bode well for a mild winter, almanac forecaster Caleb Weatherbee writes in the latest edition.
"Assuming little or no El Nino influence this winter, we should be back on track for another bad winter," the reclusive prognosticator writes in the 1999 almanac, which goes on sale this week.
"Our long-term weather tables strongly suggest that a formidable winter is in store for us, with colder and snowier conditions than normal," he predicts in the almanac.
The almanac predicts snow in the Northeast right after Election Day, a blockbuster winter storm for central and eastern states between Christmas and New Year's, late-arriving spring weather and a muggy summer.
The 182-year-old almanac's forecasts are prepared using a secret formula based on sunspots, position of planets and tidal action caused by the moon.
Geiger says that beyond El Nino -- the cyclical warming of eastern Pacific Ocean waters that can cause significant changes in worldwide weather patterns -- other weather-altering forces may be waiting in the wings.
Among them, a La Nina effect -- the reverse of El Nino -- could bring sunny, dry weather to the West and frigid, snowy conditions to the East and Central regions.
The National Weather Service maintains no one can predict the weather a year in advance with any degree of accuracy.
The almanac claims its weather predictions are 80 to 85 percent accurate -- even though they're prepared two years in advance.
Brides-to-be are known to consult the almanac when planning their big day, and Geiger says most are pleased at the outcome.
The most irate complaint was not from a rained-out wedding party but from a man in Saskatchewan who, based on a favorable forecast in the almanac, decided to take the summer off to build a house.
"It rained for much of the summer," Geiger recalled. "He was upset, but I was able to talk to him and smooth it over."
The Farmer's Almanac, not to be confused with the New Hampshire-based Old Farmer's Almanac which is 24 years its senior, claims a circulation of about 5 million and offers recipes, household hints, jokes and gardening advice.
It even has do-it-yourself advice for predicting the weather by cutting open a persimmon.
According to folklore, if the fruit's seed is spoon-shaped, look for a harsh winter with heavy, wet snow; if it's fork-shaped, expect a mild winter with light, powdery snow; and knife-shaped means an icy winter with cutting wind.