Tumbleweed warns of 6 weeks of winter

February 2, 2009 3:34:00 PM PST
Cloudy slept through the ceremony, but Tumbleweed saw her shadow this Groundhog Day. It's pretty obvious there could be a problem when it's sunny on Groundhog Day and geese are still flying south for winter. At Brookfield Zoo, there were shadows all over the place as keepers released the groundhogs.

"Today I'm going to be unveiling the box of the groundhogs and hopefully we're going to figure out if they're going to come out or not," said Diane Sindelar, Brookfield Zoo keeper.

A sweet potato cake is used to lure the sleeping animals out. But, if they don't feel like coming out they won't. For instance, Cloudy doesn't even budge, sleeping instead of trying to predict the end of our winter. But Tumbleweed starts to wake from her hibernation. And, after some gentle nudging, she heads outside -ever so briefly - into the sunshine- and shadows.

"There will be six more weeks of winter," said Felix DeSifone, groundhog weather expert.

The groundhog tradition dates back to the 1800's. Famers used groundhogs and their shadows to decide if they should plant their crops early or not. A shadow meant spring was not near.

Groundhog lovers say the furry creatures are 75- to 80- percent accurate. But, according to National Climatic Data Center, they're only 39-percent accurate. But accuracy isn't the reason people come out to watch the show. It's just fun.

"We'll have six more weeks of winter," said Anna and Faith Souders, future meteorologists. "We don't really like it."

So whom to believe? Cloudy, who slept through the whole thing and therefore did not cast a shadow? Or Tumbleweed, whose Shadow sent her back into hibernation?


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