Groundhogs agree winter is over

Meet your favourite weather forecaster – better than Bill Murray!

Winter is over!

Well, “over” or “almost over” or something like that. That’s if you believe that furry spokesanimal for Mother Nature, the famous (or notorious) Groundhog.

The story is handed down over the years. It’s easy to believe time-honoured legends and traditions it was perhaps started in some radio station or newspaper office, needing something to perk up the citizens cabin-fevered to death by long nights and short days. If fact, you aren’t far off. At least as far as North America is concerned.

According to Wikipedia, the whole idea comes from German speaking areas which have an old tradition that groundhogs, woodchucks and badgers, if they see their shadows, will scurry back inside their burrows. They won’t come out again until spring comes, which is supposed to be six weeks later. This tradition from the old country was brought to life by the then 19-year old city editor of the newspaper Punxsutawney Spirit in Pennsylvania. It started in 1886. In 1887 it was made official and handled by the local Elks’ Lodge.

Since then, it has spread around both Canada and the United States.

In our neck of the woods, there are a variety of furballs all making predictions. Triangle Tommy, Kinuso Kenny, Faust Freddie, Enilda Eddie, joined by Grouard Gary, Driftpile Denise, East Prairie Pauline, Sucker Creek Samantha, Peavine Paul, Slave Lake Larry, Widewater Willy, Falher Freddy, Donnelly Donald, McLennan Mikey, Girouxville Gerry, Nampa Noreen and last but not least, Peace River Patty.

Here be Cousin Larry

So here’s the news:

According to tradition, the original in America, Punxsutawney Phil, is summoned from his burrow by all the assembled dignitaries. Phil, who bit the ear of the mayor as Phil whispered in the mayor’s ear, is called out of bed at 7:25 A.M.

This is good news for us in Northern Alberta. Although our skies were overcast at that time of day, around 11:00 A.M. they began clearing. By noon, the sun was shining.

But, with no sun in the wee hours, our local rodents didn’t see any shadows. Prediction: It’s going to be an early spring.

Although nowhere near as much fun, a quick check with the professionals at Accuweather Weather confirms this. Accuweather says springlike weather will take us out of the deep freeze on March 3, 2019. That’s almost two weeks earlier than the “six weeks of winter” a sour prediction would mean.

Not exactly umbrella drink and t-shirt weather, but it’s probably going to seem like it after our -30 and -40 weather in early and mid-February.

For your further education, here is what Wikipedia says about Groundhog Day in general:

“In Midwest America, Sun Prairie, Wisconsin, is the self-proclaimed “Groundhog Capital of the World”.[26] This title taken in response to The Punxsutawney Spirit 1952 newspaper article describing Sun Prairie as a “remote two cow village buried somewhere in the wilderness…”[27] In 2015, Jimmy the groundhog bit the ear of Mayor Jon Freund [28] and the story quickly went viral worldwide. The next day a mayoral proclamation absolved Jimmy XI of any wrongdoing.[29]

Staten Island Chuck is the official weather-forecasting woodchuck for New York City.[30] Dunkirk Dave (a stage name for numerous groundhogs that have filled the role since 1960) is the local groundhog for Western New York, handled by Bob Will, a typewriter repairman who runs a rescue shelter for groundhogs.[31][32]

In Raleigh, NC, an annual event at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences includes Sir Walter Wally. According to museum officials, Wally has been correct 58% of the time vs. Punxsutawney Phil’s 39%. [33]

In Washington, D.C., the Dupont Circle Groundhog Day event features Potomac Phil, another taxidermic specimen. From his first appearance in 2012 to 2018, Phil’s spring predictions invariably agreed with those of the more lively Punxsutawney Phil, who made his predictions half an hour earlier. In addition, Phil always predicted correctly six more months of political gridlock. However, after being accused of collusion in 2018, Potomac Phil contradicted Punxsutawney Phil in 2019 and, further, predicted two more years of political insanity.[34]

…and Peace River Patty

In the American South, the General Beauregard Lee of Lilburn, Georgia (later Butts County, Georgia), is known to have the most accurate prediction, standing at 94%.[citation needed] The University of Dallas in Irving, Texas has boasted of hosting the second largest Groundhog celebration in the world.[35]

The day is observed with various ceremonies at other locations in North America beyond the United States,[36] including Wiarton Willie of Wiarton, Ontario,[37] and Shubenacadie Sam in Nova Scotia which, due to Nova Scotia’s Atlantic Time Zone, makes the first Groundhog Day prediction in North America.[38] “Daks Day” (from the German dachs) is Groundhog Day in the dialect of Lunenburg, Nova Scotia.[1]

In French Canada, Fred la marmotte of Val-d’Espoir[39][40] has been the representative forecaster for the province of Quebec since 2009.[41][40] A study also shows that in Quebec, the marmot or groundhog (siffleux) are regarded as Candlemas weather-predicting beasts in some scattered spots, but the bear is the more usual animal.[42][g]

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