Spring is on its way

Shortly after dawn today, Punxsutawney Phil emerged from his burrow, failed to see his shadow and let the world know that we can expect to have an early spring.

The annual ritual, which dates back to 1886, was conducted at Gobbler’s Knob in the Pennsylvania woodlands by members of the Punxsutawney Groundhog Club. It was accompanied with all the pomp and solemnity one would expect, with the woodchuck’s handlers dressed in formal wear and sporting top hats.

While Phil – whose real name is Punxsutawney Phil, Seer of Seers, Sage of Sages, Prognosticator of Prognosticators and Weather Prophet Extraordinary – carries a lot of weight in the weather world, we can’t help but look back to late October and early November, when professional human prognosticators who have access to the most sophisticated radars, computer models and satellite images told us to expect a mixed bag this winter.

As it turns out, we’ve been lucky this winter, experiencing mild temperatures for the most part. We just missed out on the massive winter storm that buried a large part of the east on Jan. 22-23, and we’re also expected to miss out on the wintry weather that is affecting the middle part of the country this week.

That’s not surprising, though. It’s a sure bet that Phil’s contemporaries in the groundhog world, including Buckeye Chuck, French Creek Freddie, General Beauregard Lee and Canada’s Shubenacadie Sam, will turn out a differing prediction when they emerge from their lairs.

Regardless of what the groundhogs say, we are in the middle of winter, and must be ready for whatever Mother Nature has in store for us, whether it’s continued mild temperatures and rain, or the blizzard that dumped more than a foot of snow on the Tri-State Area during the weekend of March 13-14, 1993.

Have some fun with the woodchucks, but take a close look at the calendar – spring will officially begin on March 20, which is just about six weeks away.