The burning question on most people’s minds when they got up on the morning of Wednesday, Feb. 2, was: Did the groundhog see his shadow? Not: Wonder what’s going on with all the unrest in Egypt, Tunisia, and Jordan? Not: Are the Republicans serious about their proposed limitations on Medicare spending by redefining rape? Not: Will my job survive this economic downturn? No, the question was whether or not a particular Pennsylvania rodent, Punxsutawney Phil, had seen his shadow, supposedly a harbinger of more weeks of bad winter weather if he had. To end the suspense: Punxsutawney Phil did not, heralding the proclamation by the Groundhog Club to mean that there would be an early spring.
At Gobbler’s Knob in Punxsutawney, Penn., Phil proclaimed an early end to winter. According to the Associaed Press, it was Phil’s 125th such forecast, of which there are 114 recorded. The Groundhog Day prediction for 2011 made only the 16th time the groundhog had not seen his shadow since 1887. He had seen his shadow 98 times over the years.
The answer for those superstitious enough to find credence in the forecasting abilities of the pampered woodchuck no doubt brought some form of relief. Still, for others, no doubt staunch followers of the scientific method (where something is considered proved if what is being tested is replicated), corroboration was necessary. When all was said and done, Punxsutawney Phil wasn’t the only groundhog who did not see his shadow on Groundhog Day.
Staten Island Chuck did not see his shadow either. New York City’s resident furry winter weather forecaster, according to the New York Daily News, seemed to be more interested in eating an ear of corn than in anything else.
Down in Georgia, Gen. Beauregard Lee also failed to see his shadow. The famed Southern woodchuck stepped out into a soggy morning at his home in Lilburn.
A little further west, Birmingham Bill slipped out of his home at the Birmingham Zoo in Alabama. He didn’t see his shadow either.
But will they be right? Will the furry forecasts be accurate? Who knows? In six weeks, Punxsutawney Phil and all the Groundhog Day predictions will have been forgotten, buried under the flood of passing time, present and upcoming events. Regardless, the tradition of simply watching the ceremony of Groundhog Day has become an American sociological institution. It will remain.
The news of an early end to winter — and with all the woodchucks in agreement on Groundhog Day — might augur a quick end to a season that has brought record low temperatures and snowfall throughout the nation. For many, it would truly be a relief from a trying cold season. The winter weather has brought record low temperatures to places as far south as Miami. Record snowfalls have been recorded in hundreds of cities. And New York City might see a snow accumulation record before winter’s end, especially with the low pressure system bearing down on the Northeastern U.S. at present.
Did the groundhog see his shadow? No. So what most likely was the next question entering most people’s minds? Probably: If winter ends early — how early? And: Wonder who’s going to win the Super Bowl?
“Groundhog Day 2011,” PACast.com
Doyle Rice, “Records fall along with snow, temperature,” USAToday.com