HOWELL, Mich. (Michigan News Source) – It’s Groundhog Day. It’s Groundhog Day. It’s Groundhog Day. And we’re having more winter, more winter, more winter…Or are we?
For 364 days of the year, most Americans have no interest in groundhogs. But every year on February 2nd around 7:25 a.m. EST, the entire country is tuned into the meteorological predictions of a rodent in Pennsylvania named “Punxsutawney Phil.”
Yes, this creature, also known as a woodchuck, is a RODENT, a part of a group of large ground squirrels. The Groundhog Day ceremony is held annually in Punxsutawney in western Pennsylvania to see if, when Phil emerges from his burrow on Gobblers’ Knob, he sees his shadow – which is a prediction of six more weeks of winter.
This morning, during the 137th Groundhog Day celebration, President Tom Dunkel took to the stage with his entourage of 15 others local dignitaries from the “Inner Circle” to welcome the crowd and get Phil out of his stump. Dunkel took his cane and knocked on Phil’s door three times while the crowd chanted “Phil! Phil! Phil!”
Phil’s handler, A.J. Dereume, removed Phil from the stump and raised him in the air for all to see. Phil was then placed on the stump and went into consultation with Dunkel to speak to him in “Groundhogese” with a series of chirps and nods. It was then that Dunkel retrieved the correct scroll to read and handed it to Vice President Dan McGinley.
McGinley read, “Hear ye, hear ye…Now on this February 2nd Punxsutawney Phil the seer of seers was awakened from his wintery nap at dawn on Gobbler’s Knob. Phil looked to the skies and then speaking in Groundhogese directed this President Dunkel to the proper scroll which reads…
I see the morning has brought the finest people
I see their bravery and spirit
The time has come I can feel it
The excitement I can hear it
I see the folks with gray in their hair
And I see the kids all young and scrawny
Their eyes and cheeks aglow
From the cold clean air of sweet Punxsutawney
I see that everyone knows their part
And I am merely the sage
But above all else
I see a shadow on my stage
And so, no matter how you measure, it’s six more weeks of winter weather.”
After that, the crowd was encouraged to take selfies with Phil. You can see a video of the event here.
So how accurate is Phil? The Punxsutawney Groundhog Club says Phil’s predictions have been correct “100% of the time.” However, the Stormfax Weather Almanac and NOAA have given Phil a 39% success rate all-time and a 40% success rate in the past ten years. Sounds about as accurate as our local weathermen and women. Nevertheless, Phil was inducted into the 2023 Meteorologist Hall of Fame yesterday by The Weather Discovery Center for his “advanced knowledge of weather science, climatology and meteorology.” Phil is the final and “most famous” inductee into the Hall of Fame. Their press release said, “As the final inductee, the Weather Discovery Center has chosen a celebrity well-known in meteorological circles throughout the world.”
So how many “Phils” have there been over the past 137 years? According to the club, only one. They say, “There has only been one Punxsutawney Phil. He has been making predictions since 1886! Punxsutawney Phil gets his longevity from drinking the “elixir of life,” a secret recipe. Phil takes one sip every summer at the Groundhog Picnic and it magically gives him seven more years of life.”
Michigan News Source did a deep dive into Phil and found out that he was reportedly named after King Phillip. Before that, he was called Br’er Groundhog. Phil has no children, but he has a wife named Phyliss. For food, he eats veggies and fruits including a lot of carrots, kale, sweet potatoes, corn on the cob and bananas. In his spare time, likes to read books and newspapers. We couldn’t confirm that he has internet access but he does have an Instagram account that’s managed by his handlers.
Phil also spends his time making appearances, participating in parades and visiting schools. In addition to that, he spends time with the “Inner Circle,” a group of local dignitaries responsible for carrying on the tradition of Groundhog Day every year. They not only plan the events, they also feed and take care of Phil.
Pennsylvania isn’t the only place with a celebrity groundhog though. Michigan has their own rodent weather spokesperson named Woody the Woodchuck. Michigan’s official groundhog. Woody, who was announced as a female at today’s event, has been predicting weather in Michigan for 25 years.
At 8:30 a.m. today at the Howell Nature Center, a countdown commenced and then the door to her stump was opened. Woody came out to look at the crowd, mostly kids, and cameras could be heard clicking from all directions during her appearance as she slowly looked around. About 30 seconds into her arrival, she hadn’t seen her shadow and one of the event announcers said, “looks like we’ve got spring!”
Without a scientific basis to back up the predictions of either Phil or Woody, chances are that most people will just pick the weather prediction that makes them the most happy.
Or there’s just the plain and simple truth that women are always right.