How an animal saw its shadow in the midst of a snowstorm is anybody’s guess.
But see said shadow it did, if one believes the legends.
Today’s the day that Punxsatawney Phil emerges from his underground hideaway and declares winter over … or not. And this year, with much of the northern U.S. under cloudy skies as snow and rain swept the land, Phil—or his handlers—declared another six weeks of winter.
“The forecast was delivered after a steady pre-dawn rain turned to snow as temperatures dropped from the high 30s to around freezing,” the Associated Press reported. “They were forecast to keep dropping over much of the state, prompting the state Department of Transportation to lower the speed limit to 45 mph for many interstate highways which were already wet and expected to freeze or be covered with snow as the day wore on.”
However, as it turns out, no shadow was needed.
“Despite the German legend, Phil's handlers don't wait to see if he sees his shadow—as he likely would not have on such an overcast day,” AP said. “Instead, the Inner Circle decide on the forecast ahead of time and announce it on Gobbler's Knob, a tiny hill in the town for which the groundhog is named, about 65 miles northeast of Pittsburgh.”
Shadows and groundhogs aside, one fact about this day does not vary. As the midway point between the winter solstice and the spring equinox, Groundhog Day combines with the visibly lengthening daylight to tell us that warmer temperatures are coming. However, six weeks when one is buried in two feet of snow can prove to be small comfort.
Of course, like many other things that are touted as a European-related invention, Groundhog Day has indigenous underpinnings.
“Groundhog Day originates from an ancient celebration of the midway point between the winter solstice and the spring equinox—the day right in the middle of astronomical winter,” writes the National Oceanic and Atmospheric and Administration (NOAA) in a web page explaining Groundhog Day. “According to superstition, sunny skies that day signify a stormy and cold second half of winter while cloudy skies indicate the arrival of warm weather.”