Sunday, January 31, 2010

Groundhog Day...And I Don't Mean The Movie

Unfortunately for Punxsutawney Phil, the official prognosticator of weather, there's a disturbance in the cosmos perched on the horizon waiting to swoop in and take over. A challenger set to usurp his throne.

Every year on February 2nd a furry rodent of the groundhog variety named Punxsutawney Phil sticks his head out of his burrow in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, to do his annual weather forecast. In the United States and Canada, this is celebrated as Groundhog Day. If Phil sees his shadow, it will frighten him and he'll return to his burrow signaling six more weeks of winter. If he doesn't see his shadow, he'll emerge and winter will soon be over.

At least, that's what the tradition claims.

The earliest American written reference to a groundhog day was 1841 in Pennsylvania's Berks County (Pennsylvania Dutch) referring to it as the German celebration called Candlemas day where a groundhog seeing its shadow was a weather indication. Since the first official celebration of Groundhog Day in Pennsylvania in 1886, crowds as large as 40,000 people have gathered in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, for the annual celebration. And in recent years it's been covered live on television. Quite an accolade for the little ol' groundhog.

The groundhog, also known as a woodchuck, is a member of the squirrel family. The current Punxsutawney Phil weighs fifteen pounds and lives in a climate controlled home in the Punxsutawney library. On Gobbler's Knob, Phil is placed in a heated burrow underneath a simulated tree stump on a stage before being pulled out at 7:25AM to make his annual prediction.

Quite removed from the concept of the groundhog waking from hibernation and sticking his head out of his burrow in the wild. :)

Phil's forecasting accuracy isn't all that great. He's only been correct 39% of the time. Between 1887 and 2009 he's seen his shadow ninety-eight times (hmm…I wonder how many of those times could be attributed to the television lights), has not seen his shadow fifteen times, and on nine occasions there was no record of what happened.

News Flash: Punxsutawney Phil, the "Official" groundhog of Groundhog Day, has a challenger for chief weather prognosticator. And just who is this brash interloper?

It's a bullfrog named Snohomish Slew. Punxsutawney Phil might have more than a hundred years of experience on Snohomish Slew, but the bullfrog is a full three days earlier with his forecast. Thanks to the Snohomish, Washington, Chamber of Commerce, Slew was guest of honor at a GroundFrog Day Celebration on Saturday, January 30.

Unlike Phil, when Slew sees his shadow it calls for eight more weeks of "foggy, soggy weather" rather than Phil's six more weeks of winter. However, Snohomish folklore dictates that whoever rubs the tummy of a frog on GroundFrog Day will be rewarded with eight weeks of good luck.

Is it time for a change? Do you think Snohomish Slew has a chance of stealing Punxsutawney Phil's place in the weather forecasting world?


Ilona Fridl said...

Samantha, thank you for a good laugh today! I think I'll stick to Phil even though he is probably as accurate as any weatherman.

Mary Ricksen said...

How much wood could a wood chuck chuck and all that. Happy groundhog day! But I am sure we are in for a bit more weather this winter, that we will not like to be in.

Samantha Gentry said...

Ilona: LOL You mean you're not going to put your trust in a bullfrog? Snohomish Slew will be so disappointed. :)

Samantha Gentry said...

Mary: How true on more winter weather. I'm looking out my office window at the 6" of snow we got on Thusday night/Friday. Yesterday and today never got out of the 20s so nothing melted and we're supposed to have more snow tomorrow and then again on Thursday. I keep telling myself that it could be worse, it's only snow and not ice. :)

susan said...

I will stick with Phil but like all weathermen..Phil isn't anymore in tune then they are. susan L.

Samantha Gentry said...

Susan: I thik Phil will continue to hold his place as the chief prognosticator. Groundhogs somehow seem more like something you'd want to pet or cuddle than a bullfrog does. :)

susan said...

Yes, it isn't easy to hold a bullfrog and I like the furry part of a ground hog more then the skin of a bullfrog. ha susan L.

P.L. Parker said...

I agree, the idea of depending on a frog as opposed to a groundhog - well, I have to stay with the fuzzy guy. Heard that some animal rights activist group is fighting to save poor Phil from being treated so poorly. Tell that to Phil's cousins in the wild.

Samantha Gentry said...

P.L. That's what I was thinking. Phil lives in climate controlled comfort, no danger from predators, all his needs taken care of. Sounds good to me!! :)