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It's Groundhog Day in Wisconsin


Image of a fully grown groundhog and its young, courtesy of "Audubon's Quadrupeds"

Burrowed 6 to 10 feet into the ground, some groundhogs become much-watched "Meteorologists for a Day" on February 2 — Groundhog Day. Across North America there's Punxsutawney Phil in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania; Buckeye Chuck in Marion, Ohio; Willie in Woodstock, Illinois, where the 1993 movie "Groundhog Day," starring Bill Murray and Andie McDowell, was filmed; Sir Walter Wally in Raleigh, North Carolina; Wiarton Willie, in Wiarton, Ontario; and, of course, Jimmy the Groundhog in Sun Prairie, Wisconsin. In Alaska, however, February 2 is Marmot Day instead of Groundhog Day since so few groundhogs burrow into the state. According to Groundhog Day lore, if the groundhog casts a shadow, we will endure six additional weeks of winter. If it's cloudy and the groundhog doesn't see his shadow, spring will soon arrive.

Groundhogs vs. Meteorologists

Professional meteorologists point out that groundhogs' predictions are only correct about 50 percent of the time, while some might say that this is about the same percentage meteorologists enjoy. In Sun Prairie, Groundhog Capital of the World, Jimmy boasts an 80-percent accuracy rate.

In the diary of Col. William H. Angell, who arrived in Sun Prairie in 1844, the February 2, 1891, entry read, "Cloudy to fine snow all day; the Old Ground Hog could not see his shadow today at 12:00 noon. According to the old addage the winter is more than 1/2 gone."

The Groundhog Day Blizzard of 2011

Remember the Groundhog Day Blizzard of 2011? What happens when the groundhog doesn't even show up for Groundhog Day? Milwaukee County Zoo's resident groundhog, Wynter, burrowed in for the day, just like everyone else in the Badger State and the Midwest.

In Sun Prairie today, Jimmy the Groundhog did not see his shadow, meaning the prediction of an early spring. Meantime, in Pennsylvania, Punxsutawney Phil did see his shadow, meaning just the opposite. Only time will tell whose groundhog has the prediction right.

:: Posted February 2, 2012

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