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News-Sentinel.com Your Town. Your Voice.

Need a groundhog to predict your weather

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.The Associated Press
Saturday, February 06, 2016 05:01 am
I’m no fan of groundhogs. They keep trying to dig tunnels under my front porch.

But I still hope for a good report every Feb. 2 when Punxsutawney Phil comes out of his burrow in Punxsutawney, Pa..Aabout this time of year, I yearning for warmer weather.

According to German legend, if its cloudy on Feb. 2, there will be an early spring. If it’s sunny, thus a groundhog sees his shadow, the animal will scurry back into its burrow and winter will last another six weeks.

We dutifully reported in Tuesday’s News-Sentinel that the top-hatted handlers of Pennsylvania’s most famous groundhog said the furry rodent did, indeed, fail to see his shadow. He emerged from his hole just before 7:30 Tuesday morning to make his “forecast.” Yippee!

But, what’s this? Other groundhogs disagree?

I heard reports that Buckeye Chuck in Marion, Ohio, saw his shadow, meaning a month and a half more winter. And Woody the Woodchuck, Michigan’s official groundhog, made the same prediction. But that wasn’t fair because how could she see her shadow? She didn’t even come out of her house.

Woody’s handlers at the Howell Conference and Nature Center in Marion Township, Mich., according to CBS Detroit, explain that “if she emerges from her house and stays out for 30 seconds or longer, she is indicating an early spring. If she doesn’t come out at all or runs back ... before the 30 seconds are up, she is forecasting six more weeks of winter.”

What’s going on here? Just how many groundhogs do you need to make this prediction? Are all these other woodchucks impostors? Is Phil for real?

Groundhog Day began in the U.S. in 1887 when the editor of the newspaper, the Punxsutawney Spirit, Clymer H. Freas, began promoting the town’s groundhog as the official “Groundhog Day meteorologist.” Tuesday was the 130th Groundhog Day ceremony.

Phil has now predicted the extension of  winter 102 times while promising an early spring only 18 times. (There are no records for the missing 10 years). Phil’s prediction is actually predetermined  by the group on Gobbler’s Knob, a tiny hill  just outside the town for which he’s named about 65 miles northeast of Pittsburgh and the setting for the Bill Murray film, “Groundhog Day.”

Buckeye Chuck has only been looking for his shadow since the 1970s.  And Woody has only been doing it for 17 years.

Of course, there are more: How about Woodstock Willie in Chicago; Jimmy the Groundhog in Sun Prairie, Wis.; Chuckles in Manchester, Conn.; Dunkirk Dave in Dunkirk, N.Y.; Stormy Marmot in Aurora, Colo., and Shubenacadie Sam in Shubenacadie, Nova Scotia. Of the nine aforementioned prognosticators, including Phil, six predicted an early spring.

But the Howell Nature Center boasts that Woody the Woodchuck has been correct 13 times of the 17 years Michigan has been doing this, an accuracy rate they say vastly surpasses  Phil’s 39 percent, as recorded on the Stormfax Weather Almanac.

Well, I’ll probably never trust a groundhog anyway.

Kerry Hubartt is editor of The News-Sentinel. 

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