Nestled in the hills of west-central Pennsylvania is a small town with a population of about 6,000. On your average day, Punxsutawney appears to be a normal town. People go about their business at a normal pace. Everything is good….and then February rolls around and things get wild.
February 2nd marks the celebration of Groundhogs Day, a tradition that has been going on for 125 years and what some claim is the oldest tradition in American history. Festivities start days before with crowds of up to 40,000 flocking to this small Pennsylvanian town about an hour and a half northeast of Pittsburgh. What drives this mass of people to venture out into the cold brutal Pennsylvania winter weather for days? It’s to see Punxsutawney Phil, a local celebratory groundhog who is woken up from his 6 month slumber just to tell us the weather. How famous is he? He’s nationally known from being on Oprah to having a whole movie based around him. His time to shine however comes once a year on February 2nd where he makes the prediction heard across the U.S. People march up to Gobblers Knob, just outside of the town to get a prime spot to watch him. Gates open at around 3:00AM EST with pre-prediction fireworks and other festivities. The weather prediction itself occurs just after dawn which is around 7:25 AM EST. His prediction is pretty simple. If he is pulled from his den and sees his shadow, it’s time for him to head back to bed to dream of groundhog things because there are still 6 more weeks of winter. If he doesn’t see his shadow, spring is near and nap time is officially up.
Records indicate that there have been 113 recorded Punxsutawney Phil Groundhogs Day observations. Out of those 113, Phil has seen his shadow 98 times and not observed his shadow the other 15. That indicates that he has seen his shadow 87 percent of the time and has predicted 6 more weeks of winter for each of those years. Many take his predictions to heart while others sit back and question them. Just how accurate are these Punxsutawney Phil predictions? Well a study done by Stormfax.com shows that he is accurate only 39 percent of the time. So should we really trust him? Maybe it is time to pick a new groundhog to listen to. There have been many groundhog weather predictors emerging around the U.S. including General Beau Lee from Georgia and Sir Walter Wally of North Carolina. Aside from their normal job of being a groundhog, these chucks are nice enough to share their Meteorology knowledge once a year to the country. However it is unlikely that these groundhogs are any better at predicting the weather than Phil. So why does Punxsutawney and other towns across the U.S. do it? It’s not so much done for the weather prediction, but more so to keep a long lasting tradition alive. There’s nothing better than having a reason to celebrate and I’m sure those 40,000 in Punxsutawney couldn’t agree more. Have a Happy Groundhogs Day from everyone at Weatherist!
Phil’s 2012 prediction: