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    Groundhog Says Spring Will Come Early this Year

    By Heather Buchman, Meteorologist
    February 04, 2011, 1:58:55 AM EST

    The groundhog had good news for the winter weary this morning. He did not see his shadow, so legend says that spring will arrive early this year.

    AccuWeather.com Chief Long Range Forecaster Joe Bastardi is in agreement, at least for areas from Texas to the mid-Atlantic.

    Bastardi has been predicting in his Rest of the Winter Forecast that areas from the Plains into the East will have an early, though perhaps false, spring that begins later this month.

    He said that while February has gotten off to a wild start, it will settle down once past Valentine's Day. However, he warns that it could turn colder again from the northern Plains into the Great Lakes and Northeast mid- or late March.

    More on Groundhog Day and Punxsutawny Phil The biggest Groundhog Day celebration is in Punxsutawny, Pa., where Phil the groundhog is cared for and fed by a group of gentlemen in black suits and top hats, known as the Punxsutawney Groundhog Club's Inner Circle, who are in charge of keeping the tradition year after year.

    The observation of Groundhog Day began with the Germans, Pennsylvania’s earliest settlers, more than 200 years ago. With them, they brought the legend of Candlemas Day (the origin of Groundhog Day), which states, "If Candlemas is fair and clear / There'll be two winters in the year."

    Likewise, if Phil sees his shadow on the day, winter will go on for another six weeks. But if he does not, legend states that spring will arrive early.


    The Inner Circle said that Phil is incapable of errors. According to AccuWeather Chief Meteorologist and Punxsutawney Weather Discovery Center 2011 Hall of Fame Member Elliot Abrams, six weeks after Groundhog Day is always about the start of spring.

    March 1 is the start of meteorological spring, while March 20 is the date of the vernal equinox, or the astrological start of spring.

    That means whenever Phil sees his shadow and predicts that there will be more wintry weather to come, he is right. If he predicts that spring is right around the corner, "it would be a long way to the end of the block," Abrams said. Since the media pays so much attention to Phil on Feb. 2, he is almost certain to see the shadow under TV lights, if not sunlight.

    Besides, the prediction is a general weather forecast. After all, in South Florida, it does not feel like winter in the first place, Abrams mentioned.

    When asked whether spring will come soon this year, Abrams said that given so many snowstorms already, people will welcome the spring whenever it comes, but, "we are waiting for the forecast on Groundhog Day."

    *** 5 Fun Facts About Groundhogs

    1) Groundhogs are very clean animals that insects do not bother, and they are even free from germs.

    2) It is the only mammal to have a day named in its honor.

    3) They usually live from two to six years, but the famous Canadian groundhog Wiarton Willie lived to the age of 22.

    4) Mostly herbivorous, groundhogs primarily eat wild grasses and other vegetation, as well as berries and agricultural crops when available.

    5) Groundhogs are one of the few animals that really hibernate. Hibernation is not just a deep sleep. It is actually a deep coma, where the body temperature drops to a few degrees above freezing, the heart barely beats, the blood scarcely flows and breathing nearly stops. (courtesy: www.groundhog.org )

    By Bo Zhang, AccuWeather.com Staff Writer, and Heather Buchman, Meteorologist

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