All those in the path of the polar vortex this past week who just can’t wait for winter to be over got some good news courtesy of a little groundhog Saturday. Punxsutawney Phil, the world’s most famous groundhog, did not see his shadow Saturday, which, as legend has it, means there will be an early spring. Thousands of people ignored the cold weather and gathered Saturday for world-famous Groundhog Day at Gobbler’s Knob in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania to watch the prediction that comes via the top hat-wearing members of the Punxsutawney Groundhog Club.
The fact that Punxsutawney Phil gave those tired of winter some optimism is rare in and of itself. This marks only the 19th time out of 123 that the groundhog did not see his shadow. But don’t get too excited because poor Phil is usually wrong. According to Stormfax, “Phil’s winter prognostications have been correct only 39 percent of the time.” CNN meteorologist Judson Jones said that “you’re better off trying to decide what the rest of February and March will look like by flipping a coin.”Little wonder that professionals are keen to say their job can’t be taken over by a groundhog. There is “no predictive skill for the groundhog during the most recent years of this analysis,” according to the the National Centers for Environmental Information.
In case you’re wondering what meteorologists believe, winter isn’t ending anytime soon. Although frigid temperatures may ease a bit in early February, it won’t last long. “The pattern will lock again for the second half of February with more cold and stormy weather for the eastern half of the nation,” AccuWeather Expert Long-Range Forecaster Paul Pastelok said.
The Washington Post’s Angela Fritz details the mixed feelings that meteorologists experience on having to report on Phil’s shadow every year:
At first it’s kind of funny, being a meteorologist on Groundhog Day. It’s like a holiday for weather people (except the furry weather person representing you that day has a brain the size of a golf ball and occasionally bites the mayors of major cities).
Plus, the little critter is cute and you grew up watching him get pulled out of his hidey hole every year. You joke about how an obese groundpig gets more attention on one day than all of your forecasts could, combined, for all of February. It’s even been on Oprah.
Then, after years of writing about shadows and lights and lore, the true terror of the second day of the second month of the year starts to creep in — the rage and self-loathing that must have existed simultaneously within Bill Murray’s character in “Groundhog Day.” And that’s before the time loop that traps him in the worst day of his life for eternity.
That movie isn’t comedy. It’s horror.
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