Sunday, February 2, 2014

How Much More Winter???

Today is Groundhog Day.  Each year since 1887, on February 2, one in a long line of resident groundhogs named Punxsutawney Phil, has emerged from his hibernation den on Gobbler’s Knob near this western Pennsylvania town, and prognosticated when winter will end.  Well, in 1942 "war clouds have blacked out parts of the shadow" and
Phil did not make an appearance at all in 1943 when he was probably off serving his country during World War II.  Otherwise, Phil has regularly and reliably done his duty.   If Phil fails to see his shadow, this means there will be an early spring.  On the other hand, if the sun is shining that morning and he casts a shadow, one can expect at least six more weeks of winter. 

This year some hoped Phil might also predict the winner of today’s Super Bowl contest  between the Denver Broncos and the Seattle Seahawks, but he demurred.
        A Super Bowl winner I will not predict,
        but my weather forecast you cannot contradict.
        Why that's not a football but my shadow I see,
        It's six more weeks of winter it must be!

Early this morning Phil saw his shadow and was frightened back into his burrow where we were also spared the horrible drubbing of the Broncos this evening.  So this long and rather tedious winter will be with us for a while longer. That is, if you choose to believe Phil.

There are some other groundhog forecasters out there and their prognostications do not always comport with Phil’s.  I read this morning that Shubenacadie Sam, who has been predicting the beginning of spring in Nova Scotia since 1987, came forth about a half hour before Phil’s appearance and called for an early spring.  Further research revealed that Balzac Billie, the “Prairie Prognosticator in Alberta, also predicted an early spring while Wairton Willie, in Ontario, predicted a long winter.  Springtime in Canada is all relative, I guess.

The same goes here.  General Beauregard Lee, in Liburn, Georgia, and Smith Lake Jake, in Birmingham, Alabama, contradicted Punxsutawney Phil by predicting an early spring.  I am certain Georgians and Alabamans and others in the Deep South hope they are correct as they continue to recover from last week’s uncharacteristic arctic weather.  They should not rest easy, however.  The General, who is 90% correct in his annual forecasts, saw an early spring in 1993 and a month later Georgia and the Southeast suffered through a blizzard still referred to as the "Storm of the Century.”  The two official groundhogs in North Carolina - Raleigh’s Sir Walter Wally and Queen Charlotte in that city - were not quite as optimistic about the arrival of an early spring.  They both saw their shadows.

Closer to home, French Creek Freddie, in rural West Virginia some 200 miles south of Punxsutawney, predicted an early spring as did Buckeye Chuck, the official state groundhog of Ohio since 1979 who resides in Marion, north of Columbus.  Staten Island Chuck, aka Charles C. Hogg and the official rodent forecaster for the Big Apple known for his adversarial relationship with the city’s mayor (he bit former Mayor Bloomberg and this year the newly inaugurated Mayor de Blasio dropped Chuck while receiving the official prediction), joined with his Pennsylvania brother to deliver the bad news of a longer winter.   Who knows what the future will bring.

Later this month I am heading up to northern New Hampshire and western Maine for my annual winter escape to the Great North Woods.  Having grown up in the upper Midwest, I have always enjoyed winter.  Middleton Maury, in southwestern New Hampshire, has also predicted six more week of winter and so hopefully I will be greeted by the snow and ice I will travel so far to see and enjoy.

Check out the "Looking Toward Portugal" Facebook page for more information and photos.

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