February Is Often Full Of Surprises In Spite Of Punxsutawney Phil

This article by Ray Spitzenberger first appeared in IMAGES for February 6, 2020, East Bernard Express, East Bernard, Texas.

            February 2 is Groundhog Day, and when Punxsutawney Phil failed to see his shadow this week, folks who swear by such things announced that we would have an early Spring, and with Super Bowl Sunday in Miami sporting nice 64-degree Spring-like weather, it sure looked like it. For the skeptics, maybe Punxsutawney Phil could indeed be relied upon!

            Although there was no shadow to frighten finicky Phil to prolong winter, I have seen too many Februarys end up being the coldest and most wintry month of that year! A case in point was an early week in February in the late 1980’s or early 1990’s (can’t remember the exact date) when we celebrated Rev. Oscar Horn’s retirement from the pastoral ministry with a huge number of people invited to a planned big dinner at the American Legion Hall in Wallis. A fierce winter storm blew in and we had sleet, followed by freezing rain, and temperatures in the 20’s. My car was slipping and sliding and skating all the way from East Bernard to Wallis. The many folks invited from Houston found I-10 impossible to travel on and went back home. A very few of us at this very important event had more food than we could possibly eat, even taking some of it home! An extremely cold, sad February day!

            Included among my parents’ superstitious beliefs about when to plant what in the garden, was the strong commitment to planting potatoes on Abe Lincoln’s birthday on February 12, and if, God forbid, wintry weather prevented you from doing that, you had to get them in the ground no later than George Washington’s birthday, February 22. More than once, it was icy in Dime Box on Lincoln’s birthday, and planting was postponed until Washington’s. And, at least once, the ground was covered with sleet on February 22.

            So naturally Phil’s good news caused me to think about that arctic day in East Bernard, and those icy February days in Dime Box, when current weather reports caused me to say, “Aha, I knew it!” The first weather report I saw posted on my wall by a “Facebook friend” announced that the Texas Panhandle was expecting three to five inches of snow by Wednesday (I’m writing this on Monday, and you will be reading it on Thursday)! Not too long after that, a weather station reported Colorado could be having two inches of snow per hour by Tuesday, with a total accumulation of more than six inches. It didn’t surprise me at all when I tuned into other weather stations and discovered how immense the winter storm was going to be, snow starting in the Northwest and moving east across the United States and extending to the northern East Coast, with very heavy snows predicted in upstate New York, New Hampshire, Maine, etc. The snowfall was going to be very heavy on Thursday (as you read this) and lasting through Friday. Of course, these forecasts can change once the system starts moving, but I doubt they will change to bright and sunny and Spring-like. Even in East Bernard the temperature is supposed to drop to the mid-thirties.

            The subsequent forecasts called for snow and a wintry mix for much of the Midwest, with light snow predicted for Wisconsin. It looks like some of the places that did not get a white Christmas are going to get a white February.

            It’s always a little risky to write a newspaper column based on weather forecasts for the week, considering the poor batting average of many forecasters; in fact, it’s risky to plan almost anything based on a weather forecast, whether from weather channels or from arthritic knees (though the knees are often more reliable). And I was never inclined to take Punxsutawney Phil very seriously.

            Texas weather is such an anomaly, I’m more likely to rely on Bee Cave Bob, our armadillo weather forecaster from Bee Cave, Texas. If Bee Cave Bob chooses to stay outdoors, we will have an early spring; if he seeks shelter, we’re in for more winter. This year, however, one source reported that Bob stayed sheltered in, while another source said he was out and about. That figures, as Texas weather is so crazy and unpredictable, even our armadillos have panic attacks! Well, I’m going to ignore Phil and Bob and go with our television weather forecasters! So, be warned! When you read this, it may be snowing! In New Hampshire!

-o-

Ray Spitzenberger is a retired teacher and pastor, and is the author of the book, It Must Be the Noodles.

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