From The Mountain
Mark J. Tidwell
It’s happened once again. On Feb. 2, that weather prognosticating critter known as Punxsutawney Phil emerged from his den to see if winter would continue its bitterness or if there’d be an early spring. The portly groundhog was surrounded by the members of the Groundhog Club’s Inner Circle, all clad in top hats and tuxedos, as well as nearly 15,000 noisy spectators when he forecast an early spring for 2011.
Thank you Phil, we needed a break from the winter blahs.
This was the 125th occurrence of the festivities at Gobblers Knob, Penn. Of course, there have been several Phil the groundhogs in that span of time. Ninety-eight times there has been a prediction of six more weeks of winter. Only 16 times has an early spring been forecasted by a lack of groundhog shadow. The other 11 forecasts have been lost in time somewhere.
Some like to laud Phil’s uncanny accuracy. He does have his detractors though. I saw one TV meteorologist curl his nose up in disdain. He proclaimed only a 39- percent accuracy rate for the waddling little feller’. In Phil’s defense, I wonder just what percentage of accuracy many professional weather forecasters can brag about.
I suppose Phil does inspire some jealousy among his contemporaries. I mean after all, Phil is pampered, well fed, overly rested, and never took a course in atmospheric studies in his life. He just wakes up, peeks outside, and hey, the whole wide world pauses momentarily for his prediction. After the big day, it’s another year of sleeping, eating, mating, and living the life of luxury on Gobblers Knob.
Meanwhile, the meteorologists are studying and training, using all kinds of technology from Doppler radar to satellite imagery, getting up early, going to bed late, and paying Uncle Sam taxes on all they earn. Their hitting the mark on weather forecasts may best old Phil by a wide margin, but you’ll have to admit, that groundhog has one sweet deal in life.
These last two winters have well reminded us that we can still have wintry conditions around these parts. For a decade or so we were spoiled with mild weather trends in which we saw little or no snow and only moderately cold temperatures. I for one am hopeful that Phil and his lack of a shadow this Ground “Hawg” Day truly does mean an early arrival of spring this year. Way to go Phil. May you be more spoiled and pampered than ever and sire many more Phils to come.