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It's Groundhog Day and the Forecast is...
Rodent Weather Predictions For Spring (or Not)
The 2020 Groundhog Day forecasts are in. You'll find them at the end of this article.

By: John Shepler

As dawn breaks on Gobbler's Knob, a buzz of anticipation begins to run through the gathering crowd. Burrowed inside his simulated tree trunk, Punxsutawney Phil is about to be pulled from his heated abode to render the most celebrated weather forecast of the year. Can we lift our spirits with the thought that spring is just around the corner ...or must we steel ourselves to the bitter realization that there are six more weeks of winter?Get your humorous Groundhog Day napkins here...

Groundhog Day has its origins in the ancient celebration of Imbolc, a point mid-way between the Winter Solstice and the Spring Equinox. Superstition has it that fair weather was seen as forbearance of a stormy and cold second half to winter. The early Christians in Europe established the custom of Candlemas Day, when the clergy would bless candles and people would light them in each window of their homes to ward off the darkness of mid-winter. But the legend of the February 2nd forecast also persisted, as captured in this old English saying:

If Candlemas be fair and bright,
Winter has another flight.
If Candlemas brings clouds and rain,
Winter will not come again.

In the Delaware area of early North America, the natives honored a creation story that said their original people, the Lenni Lenape, were once animals in mother earth and only centuries later emerged to live and hunt as men. Their ancient grandfather carried the name Oijik or Wojak, which later white settlers pronounced as "Woodchuck."

The logical merging of the German culture of the Pennsylvania Dutch, who brought with them the superstition of forecasting the weather based on the reaction of a hedgehog seeing or not seeing its shadow on Candlemas day, and the American Indian culture of revering the groundhog or woodchuck, culminated in our current celebration of Groundhog Day on February 2. So why is Punxsutawney, of all places, immortalized as the national weather forecast center of Groundhog Day? Why not?

The trail of history actually leads back to one man, Clymer H. Freas, city editor of the Punxsutawney Spirit newspaper. In 1887, he was inspired by a group of local hunters and gourmets who held a groundhog hunt followed by a picnic barbecue of, well, you know. Anyway, Freas though it so much fun that he wrote up the group as the Punxsutawney Groundhog Club and went on to promote the Punxsutawney Groundhog as the official weather forecaster. As he embellished the story year after year, other newspapers picked it up and soon everyone looked to Punxsutawney Phil for the critical prediction of when spring would return to the nation.

The fame of Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania reached a new high in 1990, with the release of the film Groundhog Day starring Bill Murray and Andie MacDowell. Bill is a cynical TV weatherman who gets trapped in time, reliving Feb. 2 over and over and over as he learns an important lesson in life. Now, is this just a romantic comedy or is there something like "a true meaning of Groundhog Day"?

Regardless, Punxsutawney can't keep something this big to itself. Other prognosticating rodents are popping up, literally, to claim a piece of the action. The notable contenders include Sun Prairie Jimmy of Wisconsin; Tennessee Groundhog of Silver Point, Tennessee; General Beauregard Lee, the Official Weather Prognosticator of the State of Georgia; Wiarton Willie, an albino groundhog who hails from Canada; and even Octorara Orphie of Quarryville, Pennsylvania...competition right next door. Each of these celebrated forecasters has a following that includes locals, visitors and the media. The revered groundhogs typically preside over festival events before making their grand appearance to check for shadows on the morning of February 2.

So, are we taking this Groundhog Day thing maybe a bit too seriously? Or is it true that six weeks into winter we've had all we can take, and are desperate to grab at any shadow, yes shadow, of hope for relief from the cold, the snow, the icy roads, the salt and dirt all over the cars, that mush surrounding the mailbox at the end of the driveway, the penetrating air, the gloomy skies, the...Oh, No! I'm not sure I can handle it if the furry one sees himself as a sundial. Then again, a sunny day with blue skies would be a psychic boost all by itself. Gee, now I don't which way I want it to go.

Oh, well, why don't we just let the groundhogs decide. If we don't like the answer, well there's always a tasty barbecue of groundho...er, uh, I mean ground beef. Don't look at me like that. I didn't mean a thing, Phil. Really.

Groundhog day souveniers... he feels really bad about that forecast.
Get your Groundhog Day buttons, magnets, bumper stickers and other souvenirs right here!

The 2020 groundhog forecasts have been made and seconded. Here they are:

Despite the unusually warm winter season, a light snow fell in Western Pennsylvania. Punxsutawney Phil looked around and saw... NO Shadow! The official groundhog forecast is now an EARLY SPRING.

Dunkirk Dave in New York confirmed Phil's prediction, saving the Northeast from...you know... Noreasters!

Sir Walter Wally in Raleigh, NC agrees. Quick spring for the Eastern USA.

Canada is saved! Wiarton Willie saw no shadow amidst the cloudy skies and falling snow.

In the Midwest, I got rousted early by my own Chuck the Rodent who thought that light in the sky was overwhelming. Sun Prarie Jimmy saw the same unusual brightness along with accompanying shadow. Guess that means we're keeping winter for another six weeks. Darn!

The flowers in the South will rise again... but not for another six weeks. General Beauregard Lee saw his shadow this morning and vowed to stay inside until the Derby.

Hope it's been a cloudy and dull Groundhog Day where you are. Boring is good for just one more morning when you are climbing the walls from cabin fever. Have a great 2020 and come back next year for more groundhog weather predictions!


Also visit these related sites:

Punxsutawney Phil's Twitter Page - The most famous of the rodent prognosticators provides updates here.

Chuck the Rockford Rodent - Our very own groundhog forecaster. Ok, he's actually a golf club cover fashioned in the likeness of the gopher from the movie "Caddy Shack." Hey, you work with what you've got.

Sun Prairie Jimmy's Twitter Page - Sun Prairie's very own prognosticator. Boasting an 80% accuracy. He's also my unofficial "real" groundhog because he lives closest.

Wiarton Willie's Twitter Page - He's an albino groundhog from Canada who claims a 90% prediction accuracy rate. All the details from Wikimedia.

Sir Walter Wally's Twitter Page - Raleigh's Hometown Groundhog - Live and Unauthorized!

General Beauregard Lee's Twitter Page - He's the official weather prognosticator for the State of Georgia, and represents the entire Southeast USA.

Dunkirk Dave's Facebook Page - Visit Dave and his human friend Bob, a licensed wildlife rehabilitator, in Dunkirk, New York.

Groundhog Day Forecasts and Climate History - NOAA's take on Punxsutawney Phil and his famous forecasts. They give him a 50% accuracy rating. What would you expect them to say about the competition?

Humorous Groundhog stickers, buttons, magnets, hats and other souvenirs - The poor little guy gets the blame for winter and is most sincerely sorry... maybe.

Groundhog Day Polar Vortex - The groundhog seems to be holding us hostage for the next polar vortex. Best to pay him his ransom of cookies and hope for an early spring! Enjoy these souvenirs.

It’s The Real Weather Person’s Day - The groundhog has his day, but did you know that professional weather people have theirs, too? Get your Weather Person's Day Souvenirs here.

 

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