Be prepared for an early spring. Punxsutawney Phil, the furry rodent, has failed to see his shadow, meaning means he’s “predicted” an early spring, according to the handlers of Pennsylvania’s most famous groundhog.
The “forecast” was made at sunrise, just before 7:30 a.m. on Tuesday by members of the top hat-wearing Inner Circle. Tuesday marked the 103rd time a groundhog in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, has taken part in the ceremony.
Groundhog Day is an American tradition rooted in a German legend that says if a furry rodent sees his shadow on February 2, winter will last an additional six weeks. If not, spring comes early.
The website, groundhog.org, says the following.
“The groundhog tradition stems from similar beliefs associated with Candlemas Day and the days of early Christians in Europe, and for centuries the custom was to have the clergy bless candles and distribute them to the people. Even then, it marked a milestone in the winter and the weather that day was important.”
It adds the following.
“Pennsylvania’s earliest settlers were Germans and they found groundhogs to in profusion in many parts of the state. They determined that the groundhog, resembling the European hedgehog, was a most intelligent and sensible animal and therefore decided that if the sun did appear on February 2nd, so wise an animal as the groundhog would see its shadow and hurry back into its underground home for another six weeks of winter.”
Phil’s “prediction” is made in advance by the group on Gobbler’s Knob, in reality. The tiny hill where the ceremony takes place is located about 65 miles northeast of Pittsburgh, just outside the town of Punxsutawney.
Records dating back to 1887 have Phil forecasting more winter 102 times, while forecasting an early spring just 17 times. There are no records for the remaining years. The USA Today reported that since 1988, the furry forecaster has been “right” 13 times and “wrong” 15 times.
The following is according to a report released Friday by the National Centers for Environmental Information in Asheville, N.C.
“Based on past weather data, there is no predictive skill for the groundhog during the most recent years of the analysis…”
Club spokeswoman Katie Donald said 1886 was the first year that the club trekked to Gobbler’s Knob in Punxsutawney, and the groundhog delivered a weather forecast. Media coverage of the event started the following year, she said.
The website, Groundhog.org, notes the following.
“Groundhogs are one of the few animals that really hibernate. Hibernation is not just a deep sleep. It is actually a deep coma, where the body temperature drops to a few degrees above freezing, the heart barely beats, the blood scarcely flows, and breathing nearly stops.”
This year’s Phil, however, has not whiled away the winter underground like most of his species, also known as woodchucks.
Instead, Phil and his handlers from the Punxsutawney Groundhog Club Inner Circle made cameo appearances on January 23 at Pittsburgh’s Penn Brewery for the unveiling of its “Punxsutawney Philsner” draft beer, and at a Pittsburgh Penguins hockey game.
Phil has had to compete a host of imitators in recent years, while he is still the most famous of the weather-forecasting groundhogs. New York City, for example, has a groundhog of its own that has generated more than its share of controversy.
New York City, for example, has a groundhog of its own that has had his share of controversies. The 2009 groundhog bit the hand of then-Mayor Michael Bloomberg during the annual February 2 ceremony.
Five years after that, the groundhog was the injured party, when a groundhog named Charlotte fell hard to the ground after she wriggled out of the grasp of Mayor Bill de Blasio. The animal died of internal injuries a week later.
De Blasio skipped the event this year, and was instead in Iowa campaigning for Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.
[Image via www.groundhog.org]