Our recent winter storm wasn’t much of a storm. The Valley floor saw a rain/snow mix, but it didn’t pile up on the ground. Some of the more outlying areas and the higher hills did see some snow accumulation, but nothing that could be described as a serious winter storm. There is one event that can put a smile on the face of even the grumpiest Winter storm hater and that takes place just once a year. As a matter of fact it just occurred. That is Groundhog Day. Somehow watching this furry critter being held up and revered as a weather prognosticator brings a smile and often a laugh to most of us. I’m not sure everyone knows how it all got started so I decided to use this column to give you the detailed information.
According to Wikipedia “Groundhog Day (Canadian French: Jour de la Marmot; Pennsylvania German: Grundsaudaag, Murmeltiertag) is a traditional holiday originating in the United States that is celebrated on February 2. According to folklore, if it is cloudy when a groundhog emerges from its burrow on this day, then the spring season will arrive early, sometime before the the vernal equinox; if it is sunny, the groundhog will supposedly see its shadow and retreat back into its den, and winter weather will persist for six more weeks.”
The definition only explains what Groundhog Day is, but not how it started. I’ll rely on history.com for the origin of this celebration. Apparently the idea started with Candlemas Day which is an ancient Christian tradition in which candles that were blessed by the clergy were given to the people representing the length and severity of the winter to come. It seems the Germans ran with that idea adding a hedgehog as the critter that would actually predict the severity and length or lack of same the rest of the winter season.
What about how the event came to America? History.com says “Once they came to America, German settlers in Pennsylvania continued the tradition, although they switched from hedgehogs to groundhogs, which were plentiful in the Keystone State.”
Marmota monax is the scientific name for the groundhog which is often called a woodchuck. Here is when the celebration began. Again history.com: “In 1887, a newspaper editor belonging to a group of groundhog hunters from Punxsutawney called the Punxsutawney Groundhog Club declared that Phil, the Punxsutawney groundhog, was America’s only true weather-forecasting groundhog. The line of groundhogs that have since been known as Phil might be America’s most famous groundhogs, but other towns across North America now have their own weather-forecasting rodents, from Birmingham Bill to Staten Island Chuck to Shubenacdie Sam in Canada.”
Now that you have the background information it’s time for my annual Groundhog Report. I am using results from as many varied groundhog reports as I can find. With the COVID-19 Pandemic restrictions the usual crowds were not there to witness the formal events. Only the press with their cameras were allowed to be there along with the local officials.
Let’s start with Punxsutawney Phil who this year is reported to have seen his shadow predicting six more weeks of winter. Here is his official web page. Two things come into question here. First, it was cloudy and snowing so it would be impossible to see your shadow and secondly the actual decision is made the night before by a specially designated group of people. Also Phil’s been wrong before.
General Beauregard Lee from Atlanta, Georgia did not see his shadow meaning an early spring is on the way. His web official web page is www.yellowrivergameranch.com.
Next we check out Malverne Mel from Long Island, New York. He did not see his shadow.
Holtsville Hal did not see his shadow in Brooklyn, New York predicting early spring.
Now on to Staten Island Chuck, from where else but Staten Island, New York, predicted an early spring due to the fact that he did not see his shadow.
For some unknown reason New York State has a plethora of groundhogs. Dunkirk Dave from Dunkirk, New York did not see his shadow so he joins in with the early spring crowd.
Next in line is Buckeye Chuck resides in Marion, Ohio and at 7:40 a.m. February 2nd he did not see his shadow predicting an early spring.
Sir Walter Wally resides in Raleigh, North Carolina did not see his shadow so he predicts an early spring.
We have two foreign groundhog reports. The one that I have used for many years is Wiarton Willie from Ontario, Canada. Willie did not see his shadow predicting an early spring. The other Canadian groundhog is Shubenacadie Sam from Nova Scotia and he didn’t see his shadow either keeping with the early spring prediction.
Now we come to the last and for us the most important groundhog, Spencer Butte Bob who is my personal prognosticator. Bob had a difficult time deciding this year. One minute it was overcast so he couldn’t see his shadow and the next minute the sun peeked out producing a shadow. We left it up to Bob to make the final decision and he concurs with the majority that we will have an early spring.
Now that we have heard from a large group of groundhogs let’s tally up the two sides. We have eleven reports with ten predicting an early spring and only one predicting 6 more weeks of winter. If you flip a coin the odds of getting heads or correctly predicting the weather for the next 6 weeks are the same. Personally if these predictions really mean anything I’d pick Spencer Butte Bob’s prediction of an early spring because he is here in Eugene, Oregon’s South Hills.
Let me know what you would like me to talk about or explain. You can comment below or email me at: [email protected].