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Editorial: The forecast from Phil

Today, thankfully, we briefly turn our attention from political pundity, economic forecasts and other dreary matters to prognosticating rodents. It’s Groundhog Day, when a celebrity groundhog named Punxsutawney Phil is scheduled to emerge from his Pennsylvania burrow and see his shadow. Or not.
As folklore has it, if the sun is shining and the groundhog sees its shadow, six more weeks of winter weather remain. If the groundhog doesn’t see its shadow, we can look forward to an early spring. Admittedly, a stick stuck in the ground could serve the same purpose. Unlike cute puppies and kittens, however, groundhogs don’t rank very high on the list of photogenic, cuddly creatures. So let Phil and his beady-eyed brethren have their one day in the limelight, weather permitting. After that, it’s back to the burrow and another year of underground anonymity.
While some might dismiss all this as superstitious foolishness more suited to the Middle Ages than modern times, let it be noted that Punxsutawney Phil has adapted to the digital age. The groundhog has migrated to the Internet, where you can watch the grand event live through streaming video (http://www.visitpa.com/ groundhog-day-live-stream). Rumor has it Phil may even send out Twitter updates as he drowsily prepares for the great emergence. So take that, Weather Channel.
Like Elvis Presley, Phil has inspired his share of imitators. Rowan County’s Dan Nicholas Park has Buddy the groundhog, but apparently he’s not a big fan of woodchuck meteorology (and is on the injured reserve list this year; read Mark Wineka’s column on page 1A). In the past, Buddy has treated Groundhog Day with downright indifference, sometimes sleeping in from autumn until, oh, say early March, like a teenager after a midnight pizza binge. If Buddy has been following the presidential race thus far, he may want to extend the snoozing through November.
We’ll see what the groundhog has to tell us today. Based on the balmy temperatures we’ve enjoyed over the past few weeks, the question here in North Carolina isn’t whether we can expect six more weeks of winter but whether we’ll be having heat waves by March.

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