It's Groundhog Day and the Forecast is... Rodent Weather Predictions For Spring (or
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?
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
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?
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.
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!
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.