Through a Glass Darkly for February 8, 2012

BY bob anderson

Caretakers of a hairy critter northeast of Pittsburgh claim we will have winter this year.

Their prediction would mean six weeks and three days of winter in Louisiana.

I haven’t seen a bundled-up child walk uphill to school in even a dusting of snow all year. The firewood I split and stacked on my front porch this fall remains practically untouched. I doubt either of those things will change.

Should we trust Punxsutawney Phil and his cronies in tall hats and tuxedos to forecast our weather?

While Phil may predict “more” winter, the buds and blossoms of some of my trees whisper that he’s a fake. That’s just part of the evidence that there should be a federal groundhog probe.

The nation has relied on accurate information from Phil — through his mediums — since 1887. Has his contract ever been re-bid?

How accurate has he been?

The Washington Post, which has done stories leading to more than one federal investigation, just reported Phil has predicted more winter 99 times and an early spring 16 times.

Even using pencil and paper, math majors will note the years don’t add up.

The Post spotted that also — and reported nine years of missing records.

Since that still didn’t compute, I checked the records of the Punxsutawney Groundhog Club. Surpassing the Nixon-tape gaps, nine years of groundhog records, starting in 1889, can’t be located.

Additionally, the 1902 records contain this cryptic notation: “Probably no shadow.”

Even more questionable, in 1942 the report indicates a “partial shadow.”

The 1943 entry states: “Groundhog didn’t make appearance.” Was Phil working for the military, maybe helping plan a huge, weather-dependent invasion?

The 1961 record obviously was falsified. It says the temperature was minus 25 degrees, and Phil saw his shadow. Any Louisiana boy knows no human or other creature can live outside long enough at minus 25 degrees to see anything.

Speaking of life and death? Has anybody ever seen a story indicating Phil has died or retired. How long do groundhogs live? Both are questions the investigation, perhaps headed by Bill Murray, must answer.

If there is a conspiracy involving our weather predictions, it appears linked to Washington.

On Feb. 2, well-respected groundhogs in West Virginia, Georgia, Michigan and Ohio all predicted no more winter.

The exception, who sided with Punxsutawney Phil, was Potomac Phil. Like some other Washington, D.C., residents, he is stuffed.

If the investigation doesn’t alleviate the nation’s fears, maybe we should outsource our weather prognostications: Shubenacadi Sam, of Nova Scotia, has a good record.

Advocate Florida Parishes bureau chief Bob Anderson welcomes comments by email to banderson@the
advocate.com.