In case you missed it, yesterday was Groundhog Day. By all accounts, Punxsutawney Phil didn’t see his shadow. That means spring is coming early this year.
Or so we’re to believe.
Hard evidence, however, shows us to be careful what we believe in. According to noted forecaster Matt Daniel, our old reliable furry friend Phil doesn’t exactly boast a strong track record, having only accurately predicted the arrival of spring at an unreliable 39 percent rate.
If you wondered, Phil has spotted his shadow 100 times out of 117 (87 percent) dating back to the late 1880s, when someone thought it would be neat to employ a groundhog in forecasting the weather.
At any rate, Daniel recently concluded: “No one should rely on a groundhog to predict the remainder of this winter.”
Fair enough. But who are we to believe in this world filled with hapless weathermen, steroid-using athletes, “online partners”, shady politicians, fraudulent telemarketers and erratic woodchucks?
The answer to our trust issues may lie in the shadows of one Dunkirk Dave.
Dave, according to his website, is the second-longest prognosticating groundhog, with 58 years of weather prediction experience.
Aside from their woodchuck identities, plenty separates Phil from Dave and Dave from Phil – not the least which is the pomp and circumstance surrounding the two animals.
Phil is clearly the most popular of all the groundhogs roaming our fertile grounds. He’s appeared on the Oprah show. He’s co-starred with Bill Murray in a motion picture. He heads the Weather Channel’s rankings of the top 11 groundhogs.
And he is who we direct our gaze each and every Feb. 2.
On the Groundhog Day website, one can sign up for a Groundog E-newsletter, apply for official membership into Phil’s club or you can even start your own club chapter.
According to the site, a groundhog’s life is normally six to eight years. But Phil is different. He receives a drink of a magical punch every summer during the Annual Groundhog Picnic, which allegedly gives him seven more years of life.
Also consider this: You might have noticed that each Feb. 2, Phil is surrounded by group of men wearing black top hats and bow ties. The group calls itself the “Inner Circle.” The president of the group consults with Phil before the woodchuck is unveiled to the tens of thousands who descend upon the western Pennsylvania outpost for the occasion.
Sound really corny?
Dave, on the other hand, goes about his business with far less fanfare. While Phil’s exploits are covered each year by national media outlets such as USA Today and The Associated Press, this short story about Dave is what appeared on the Dunkirk Observer newspaper website on Saturday night.
The birth of Dunkirk Dave seemingly was just as uneventful. Dave, more or less, came from a young man’s passion to care for animals, most notably woodchucks. Bob Will, Dave’s handler, claims he’s nursed thousands of the animals back to health.
Will wrote on the Dunkirk Dave website that “one Groundhog day” editors from the local newspaper “scheduled pictures, wrote the article, and named the groundhog, ‘Dunkirk Dave’.
“After the original story was published,” Will added, “our local Dunkirk Dave groundhog became more well known.”
Certainly not as well known as Phil. But maybe more accurate. Will told Buffalo Business First that Dave has been right about the weather 93 percent of the time over the years.
But how can Phil fail so much and Dave be so precise?
“Ours is on the ground and Punxsutawney Phil is not,” Will explained. “Our method is more authentic.”
Look no further than last year for proof. While Phil saw his shadow – an indicator of six more weeks of winter – Dave did not. What transpired was one of the warmest Februarys ever recorded in the United States.
For what it’s worth, Dave didn’t see his shadow this year either. That must mean spring is coming early.
Official Website: Dunkirk Dave
On Facebook: Dunkirk Dave