I'ts Ground Hog Day

By ANDREIA MEDLINStaff Writer“They used to pull the hog out, and they used to eat it.” The people of the little town of Punxsutawney, Pa., aren't so cynical as the fictional weatherman/reporter portrayed by Bill Murray in the iconic movie Ground Hog Day. Every year for the past 128 years, on Feb. 2, thousands of people crowd into Gobbler's Knob in the wee hours of the morning and anxiously await the appearance of their beloved seer of seers, prognosticator of prognosticators, Punxsutawney Phil.And this year was no different.According to Phil's Inner Circle, the Board of Directors of the Punxsutawney Groundhog Club who are the caretakers of what is actually a woodchuck, at 7:28 a.m. the furry weatherman did appear, saw his shadow and to the disappointment of many, predicted six more weeks of what has already been a brutal and frigid winter. Punxsatawny Phil, the most famous prognosticating rodent in the world, has just predicted that there will be six more weeks of winter in the United States. Reports from the event are that Phil saw his shadow after he popped out from his borough, but returned soon after. His handlers declared his actions predict six more weeks of cold weather.Before a crowd of thousands, Phil made his weather prediction at Gobbler's Knob in the tiny western Pennsylvania town of Punxsutawney, located about 56 miles northeast of Pittsburgh. According to folklore, the groundhog emerges every year on Feb. 2, from his temporary home. If Phil sees his shadow and returns to his hole, he has predicted six more weeks of winter. But if he does not see his shadow, it means he has predicted an early spring.Known as 'Groundhog Day' in the U.S. and Canada, Phil is considered the world's most powerful prognosticating rodent, rivaling Michigan's Woody the woodchuck and Staton Island Chuck in popularity. However, all three made the same prediction as of this morning. Lucky Phil only works one day a year. During the rest of the year, when not tasked with the job of forecasting the weather, he lives in luxury in a large terrarium next to the town library with his "wife" Phyllis.Scientific data indicates Phil's prognostication is nothing more than a way of celebrating folklore; and there is no actual correlation between Phil's prediction and the changes in the weather. The National Climatic Data Center has described Phil's forecasts as "average, inaccurate" and has said: "The groundhog has shown no talent for predicting the arrival of spring, especially in recent years".However, the Groundhog Day organizers have claimed that Phil is accurate in predicting weather 75 to 90 percent of the time. A study of weather data over several decades for 13 cities across Canada, on the other hand, has revealed that the groundhog's predictions were correct only 37 percent of the time. Groundhogs are extremely rare, almost, if not completely non-existent in West Texas and Gobbler's Knob is 1,549 miles from Big Spring, but the folklore is well known and continues to live on thanks to the yearly coverage and a hugely popular movie. Waking this morning to a rare sight of snowfall and when a lot of us have the Super Bowl on our minds, local reaction has been, shall we say, tongue in cheek.“It's a bunch of fluff,” remarked Bebe McCasland, local bird rehabilitator. “Over the years we have seen numerous lengthy winters, but it's still a toss of the coin whether we will have six more weeks of winter or not.” As for the folklore and tradition McCasland said that it's a fun way for the Pennsylvania town to, “get rid of the winter misery and it just shows how people will grasp at anything to have fun. Mother Nature is going to do what she wants and you really can't predict the weather on the whims of a rodent.”Howard College Art Department Head, Stacy Slaten, only wants more moisture. “It's so dry here,” Slaten commented. “I just want more moisture even if it's snow.”Retired nurse, Linda Munoz took a more humorous angle to the weather predicting mammal. “I think we will have six more weeks of winter,” Munoz commented and had a theory for his prediction. “Because the groundhog probably had sunglasses on when he came out this morning,” she laughingly concluded.While Big Spring doesn't have a groundhog, or any other animal to predict the remainder of the season, we do have prairie dogs in abundance. Attempts to get a comment from one of the many squirrel cousins that reside at the McMahon Wrinkle Airpark proved futile, quite possibly due to the snow or perhaps they had no comment because, well, prairie dogs can't talk. Despite an exhaustive search in the briskly falling snow, there were none of the critters in sight in any of the many prairie dog towns that surround the tarmacs at the airpark. Begging the question - do prairie dogs have more common sense than ground hogs since they obviously preferred to remain snug in their burroughs? The world may never know. To contact Andreia Medlin call the Herald at 263-7331.