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Athol-Thurman

Groundhog folklore is fun

Groundhog Day is celebrated on Feb. 2 — and many people in the region, young and old, enjoy the quirky tradition.

According to folklore, if it is cloudy when a groundhog emerges from its burrow on this day, then spring will come early. If it is sunny, the groundhog will supposedly see its shadow and retreat back into its burrow, and the winter weather will continue for six more weeks.

This logic has confused me for years, If one “sees” their shadow it means it’s sunny out, therefore we would be having warmer weather than usual for February. And, if no shadow is seen then it would be overcast and hence having seasonal weather for February. However, sunny conditions generally indicate clear weather in winter, which routinely is accompanied by colder temperatures.

Annually, thousands of people show up at “Gobblers Knob” in Punxsutawney, Pa. to see whether Punxsutawney Phil could see his shadow. Also, each year the topic of groundhog prognostication is a top internet inquiry, according to search engine data.

According to the StormFax Weather Almanac and records kept since 1887, Punxsutawney Phil's weather predictions have been correct 39 percent of the time.

The U.S. National Climatic Data Center asserts that the statistics gathered for years show Punxsutawney Phil has no predictive skill.

Well, we up here in Thurman don’t hold it against the groundhogs.

Woolly bears and Edith Bills

A better way to predict the winter in Thurman has historically been the prevailing colorations of the woolly bear caterpillar.

Old-timers in Thurman remember that for years, Adirondack Journal columnist Edith Bills annually measured the black and brown bands on the creature to predict how rough the upcoming winter would be.

If the woolly bear caterpillar has a big brown stripe in the middle and smaller black stripes on each end, winter will be mild. But if the creatures tend to have a small brown stripe in the middle and bigger black stripes on the ends, winter will be harsh, according to prevailing folklore.

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