Phil, the Groundhog, Says Spring is Soon. Is He Wrong?


Image Courtesy of Fox 5 Washington D.C.

By Carissa Remington

Groundhog Day has come and gone for the 136th time, and Potomac Phil says an early spring is on its way. 

An odd winter has befallen Washington D.C., and no one has been sure whether to bring out the spring wardrobe or bundle up for a delayed winter hit. When in doubt about the season, people turn to Groundhog Day for answers. At 8:30 a.m. on February 2, Potomac Phil was presented in Dupont Circle in Washington D.C., to reveal whether the winter will persist. Neither Phil nor Rocket (his accompanying dog) saw their shadow, revealing that we should expect the flowers before May.

In a sad turn of events, the state of Kentucky’s own rodent meteorologist passed away on the morning of February 2. Soon after predicting an early spring, Major, Kentucky’s groundhog, passed at the age of ten years. 

“He was full of amazing energy up until the end,” the Second Chances Wildlife Center claimed in a Facebook post quoted by LEX 18

The origin of Groundhog Day runs far back. The American tradition was traced back to February 2, 1887. A newspaper editor back in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania declared Phil (the first one) as the “only true weather-forecasting groundhog,”in America

Similar traditions have been traced to earlier roots. One of these is an ancient Christian tradition of lighting candles that had been blessed. These candles had been said to foreshadow the length and bitterness of the winter ahead. Germans then expanded on this concept by selecting a hedgehog to predict the coming weather.

With this tradition being a variation of another, not everyone everywhere celebrates Groundhog Day the way most of North America does. According to World Population Review, about fifteen of the fifty states in the United States do not participate in the tradition of Groundhog Day.. Canada is a part of North America that participates, but they have a twist, namely “Shubenacadie Sam.” Not only does Canada have Shubenacadie Sam, their groundhog, but they also have a crustacean named Lucy that they consult simultaneously.

With Phil’s prediction documented for the year, questions of his accuracy are bound to arise. According to Stormfax Weather, Phil is only right 39% of the time. This is an underwhelming statistic, as Groundhog Day has become a widely beloved occasion. It often serves as a silly event that provides a brief break in the bitter peak of winter. 

With the conclusive but doubtful results that Potomac Phil has left, the matter of spring is unresolved. Whether or not April showers will bring  May flowers early this year is still uncertain. In the meantime, enjoy the oddly warm winter while it continues. 

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