It’s Groundhog Day!

Bill's Blog

It’s Groundhog Day…again. The legendary famous Feb. 2nd forecast began not with a groundhog, but with a badger in Germany. When the “Pennsylvania Dutch”, who were really Germans, not Dutch, came to Pennsylvania, they didn’t find any badgers, so the legend was transferred to the rather numerous groundhogs.

The first mention of Groundhog Day in America goes all the way back to 1840, to a diary entry by James Morris, who commented on his German neighbors. The first official mention of a Groundhog Day observance came from the Punxsutawney Spirit newspaper in 1886.

Around 2,000 people would come to Punxsutawney PA for the Groundhog Weather Forecast…until the movie Groundhog Day was released in 1993. When the movie came out, the crowd swelled to as many as 40,000 – eight times the population the town. It’s now back down to around 10,000 – still a pretty sizable crowd.

Side note that I’ve shared before…Bill Murray, the actor from the movie, lived 3 blocks from me in Wilmette IL when I was growing up. We went to the same elementary school. He was one year older than me. We were both golf caddies. Many of the outdoor scenes for the movie were filmed in Woodstock, Illinois. I got an email last year from Woodstock, reminding me that they still have the downtown gazebo, the Tip Top Cafe, the house used as a Bed and Breakfast in the movie and their own weather-forecasting groundhog, “Woodstock Willie”. With COVID, they are not advertising this year.

FILE – In this Saturday, Feb. 2, 2019 file photo, Groundhog Club co-handler A.J. Dereume holds Punxsutawney Phil, the weather prognosticating groundhog, during the 133rd celebration of Groundhog Day on Gobbler’s Knob in Punxsutawney, Pa. At sunrise (often shortly before sunrise) on Feb 2, members of Punxsutawney Phil’s top hat-wearing inner circle reveal the furry forecaster’s prediction. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

You can check the cloud cover in western Pennsylvania (and in Michigan) on this satellite loop. You can check current weather observations in PA here. Remember, if the groundhog sees his shadow – 6 more weeks of winter. If he doesn’t see his shadow, that doesn’t mean winter is over, it means that spring will be on the early side (a good call with this weather pattern right now).

Sunlight or not…I predict Phil will see his shadow and forecast 6 more weeks of winter. Same prediction from the Michigan groundhogs. We’ve had a mild winter without much snow…but the Arctic blast moves in starting Friday and I assume all groundhogs will be hunkered down underground.

Interesting note…the record high temperature for this Groundhog Day in Grand Rapids is 50 set last year (2020). It’s also the lowest record high temperature of the year for G.R.

Feb. 2 is also Candlemas Day. There’s an old saying, “Half the wood and half the hay, better have left on Candlemas Day”. That meant that if you still had half your winter supplies on Feb. 2, you’d make it through the winter.

Right now, I’m working a Saturday – Wednesday schedule, so I’ll be working Sunday. The Arctic Express will have moved into the Great Lakes. After the Big Game, flip over to get my updated forecast at 10 pm on WXSP or at 11 pm on WOOD TV8.

ALSO: Coldest January in ten years in Norway, 3.3 °C below the new 1991-2020 thirty-year normal. The coldest station (anomaly) was Leirflaten (Sel, Innlandet) -21.0 °C (10.1 °C below normal) The lowest minimum temperature was -35.5 °C at Kautokeino (Troms and Finnmark) on 13 January. Up to 18″ of snow in New York City. Robin singing in a snowstorm. Snowstorm in England. Jack-knifed semi blocks highway. Across Britain, temperatures averaged 2.2C (36F) last month amid harsh frosts, sleet and snow. It was the coldest January since 2010. Natural gas prices jump 11%, as weather models point to “widespread cold” for much of the country. 30″ of new snow in Mendham, New Jersey. Ice forming along the shore of Lake Michigan in Chicago. Pretty sunset at Lake Michigan. Train tracks on fire?! Central Park in Manhattan got 18.3″ of snow from yesterday’s snowstorm…more than Grand Rapids and Holland have had all winter.

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