There’s just no telling

Published 11:43 am Saturday, February 3, 2018



The tradition began in Germany centuries ago. Back then, it was a badger that could foretell whether the weather would stall in winter or turn toward spring. If said badger emerged from its burrow in foul weather, spring was near; if it was sunny, and the badger returned to its lair, that meant more winter weather was on its way.

The tradition was brought to the United States during colonial times. However, in the eastern U.S., there were no badgers. So badgers were replaced by groundhogs and the tradition continued. At its center is Punxsutawny Phil — the foremost weather predictor in groundhog history.

Friday morning, Punxsutawny Phil emerged from his burrow in Punxsutawny, Pennsylvania, cast his shadow and set another year’s prediction: six more weeks of winter — much to the dismay of the gathered crowd.

However, a little further south, the extended forecast was a little bit confused. In North Carolina, despite the clear day, Sir Walter Wally, of Raleigh, did not see his shadow. Greta, of Chimney Rock, had the opposite reaction. Sir Walter says spring is on the way. Greta would have to disagree. Perhaps these groundhogs are more regionally aligned.

Regardless, there will be six weeks of weather. And whether the weather is six weeks of more frigid temperatures or six weeks of the more temperate temperatures to which eastern North Carolinians are accustomed, if this winter has taught us anything, it’s to be prepared.

The sustained below-freezing days and nights of early January sent many homeowners into a tailspin: needing to cut off water to frozen pipes, but not knowing where main water shut-off is; calling a plumber about frozen pipes, only to find there’s a waiting list; learning the safe methods to thaw frozen pipes; finding ways to prevent pipes from freezing again when the temperature is hovering in the teens and 20s for days at a time.

It was an education for many. Staying educated as the seasons change is not a lesson to be taken lightly.