COLUMBIA, S.C. — On Thursday, tens of thousands of people will travel to Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania to get the weather from a rodent. First, let’s talk about how Groundhog Day began.
Like many American traditions, we go to Europe where the Christian feast of Candlemas occurred at the beginning of February each year. This holiday was accompanied by a large candle processional, which helped give it its name. The public over time began to associate this day with the time that burrowing animals such as bears, badgers, and hedgehogs would begin to emerge from their winter slumbers. From there, the tradition of animals emerging from that sleep and seeing their shadows began to be used as a way to predict the rest of the winter.
German immigrants that moved to the U.S. couldn’t find any hedgehogs running around but they did find groundhogs and that is how Groundhog Day was born.
Since 1887 Punxsutawney Phil has seen his shadow a total of 107 times, predicting a late winter. On the other hand, he has only predicted an early spring only 20 times.
While he has tried his best, Phil doesn’t have a great track record when it comes to his forecasts. Places in the Northeast see very active weather typically in the winter.
Looking at data since 1990, Phil’s forecast has been right around 30% of the time but if he were to move down to a warmer location like the Palmetto State, our weather would increase his prediction’s accuracy by over 10%.
Our regional groundhog expert, General Beauregard Lee in Georgia, called for an early spring last year and ended up being correct. We will have to wait and see what he also says later this week.