MYNORTHWEST WEATHER

Punxsutawney Phil and the big reveal on Groundhog Day

Feb 2, 2024, 4:28 AM | Updated: Feb 3, 2024, 9:01 am

Groundhog Day and its long 138-year history returned with the annual ceremony in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, Friday.

Famous groundhog Punxsutawney Phil came out of his burrow to make his folklore weather prediction.

The result: The Groundhog Day star didn’t see his shadow, according to the inner circle at Gobbler’s Knob. As is tradition, that means an early spring.

The history of Groundhog Day

The story of Groundhog Day dates back to a diary entry by storekeeper James Morris of Morgantown, Pennsylvania on Feb. 4, 1841.

“Last Tuesday, the 2nd, was Candlemas Day, the day of which, according to the Germans, the groundhog peeps out of his winter quarters and if he sees his shadow, he pops back for another six weeks nap,” Morris wrote. “But if the day is cloudy, he remains out as the weather is to be moderate.”

More on Groundhog Day: The day’s deep roots extend well beyond Punxsutawney

What James Morris wrote offered some weather observations and meteorology. Winter surface high pressure in the eastern U.S. often results in sunny skies and cold temperatures. So if the groundhog finds sunshine Friday, winter is still likely in progress. If it is cloudy, then a more moderate weather pattern is already underway.

Since 1887, Groundhog Day has been celebrated on Gobbler’s Knob in Punxsutawney each year on Feb. 2. This year’s celebration will again attract thousands of visitors to witness Punxsutawney Phil come out of his burrow and make his folklore weather prediction. According to groundhog.org, this year’s festivities in Punxsutawney are sold out. Yet, everyone can watch Phil make his legendary prediction online at the Visit Pennsylvania streaming website.

The latest Punxsutawney weather forecast for Friday morning offers considerable cloudiness, creating good odds Phil will not see his shadow. Right now, there’s still a chance for the cloud cover to break as the sun comes up.

Is there a similar animal here that predicts the weather?

In short, there is no folklore-oriented animal in Western Washington or elsewhere across the country. Yet, many enjoy the event since it is one of our country’s most peculiar ways to talk about the weather — and so far this year in this region, the weather has been a wild rollercoaster. A severe freeze occurred just a few weeks ago, only to be interrupted by record warmth in late January.

But other states have similar celebrations. Most recently, West Virginia had to cancel their state’s Groundhog Day ceremony with French Creek Freddie has been canceled after a variance was found in a secondary containment fence at the center.

More from Ted Buehner: Seattle hit a record low of 0 degrees in 1950; temps are closer to 60 now

So, if Washington had a similar hibernating groundhog, what would you call it?

Walla Walla Wally? Vancouver Victoria? Bellingham Bella?

Send your ideas to MyNorthwest via X, formerly known as Twitter, Facebook or text “Groundhog” to the KIRO Newsradio text line at 888-973-5476 before Friday at noon.

Here is our post on X:

Here is our Facebook post:

Contributing: The Associated Press

Editors’ note: This piece originally was published on Thursday, Feb. 1, 2024 and has been updated and republished multiple times since then.

Ted Buehner is the KIRO Newsradio meteorologist. You can read more of Ted’s stories here and follow him on X, formerly known as Twitter

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