PARKERSBURG - On Wednesday, furry forecasters in West Virginia, Pennsylvania and elsewhere will attempt to determine what the rest of the winter season is going to be like in celebration of Groundhog Day.
Punxsutawny Phil in Punxsutawny, Pa., and French Creek Freddie at the West Virginia State Wildlife Center at French Creek in Upshur County will be checking for their shadows Wednesday, aiming to forecast the onset of spring.
According to popular tradition, if the groundhogs see their shadows on Groundhog Day there will be six more weeks of winter. If no shadows are observed, an early spring is forecast.
Wednesday’s forecast for Groundhog Day in the Parkersburg area continues to call for rain showers with a chance of snow showers in the morning and afternoon, growing more likely Wednesday night as temperatures fall into the upper 20s. (News and Sentinel File Photo)
The tradition of Groundhog Day is rooted in early European legend. According to tradition, Groundhog Day stems from similar beliefs associated with Candlemas Day, when, for centuries, early Christian clergy would bless candles and distribute them to the people.
During the conquest of the northern country, Roman legions supposedly brought this tradition to the Teutons, or Germans, who concluded that if the sun made an appearance on Candlemas Day, the hedgehog would cast a shadow, thus predicting six more weeks of bad weather.
Early German settlers found another burrowing animal, the groundhog, more plentiful in America and it replaced the hedgehog as the traditional "wise animal" which, upon seeing its shadow, would forecast another six weeks of winter.
J.J. Barrett, agriculture agent with the WVU Extension Service in Wood County, said Groundhog Day is a tradition going back many years, based on a variety of past beliefs and ideas about nature and the world.
A similar tradition revolves around woolly worms and their colors predicting the harshness of the coming winter.
"I don't think there's much scientific validity to it," Barrett said.
For any groundhogs living in the Mid-Ohio Valley, the forecast for the rest of the week from the National Weather Service in Charleston seems to indicate a probable lack of shadows due to the clouds and precipitation anticipated over the next several days.
Monday's overnight forecast called for possible freezing rain mainly after midnight with possible ice accumulation. The rain is scheduled to continue today and tonight with temperatures in the 40s and the chance of precipitation ranging from 80 to 100 percent.
Wednesday's forecast for Groundhog Day in the Parkersburg area continues to call for rain showers with a chance of snow showers in the morning and afternoon, growing more likely Wednesday night as temperatures fall into the upper 20s.
Thursday and Friday are expected to be partly cloudy with Saturday through Monday becoming mostly cloudy, according to the weather service.