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It is a fine skill to predict weather
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Forecasting the weather is a job I wouldn’t want. If you predict rain and it doesn’t, folks chuckle and go on their way. If you predict a blizzard and it doesn’t happen, folks will stop just short of calling for a lynch mob.

I have a couple of meteorologists who are friends of mine and I trust them. They do a good job.

They have access to all sorts of computers, radars and technology that has made weather forecasting more accurate than ever.

Why, then, do we pay so much attention to a rodent?

The lowly groundhog has become synonymous with the prediction of the remainder of winter. The groundhog has put Punxsutawney, Pa., on the map and made Feb. 2 a day media from around the world converge on the little town in northeastern Pennsylvania.

Punxsutawney Phil, the grand master of groundhogs, has a record of accuracy somewhere around 39 percent. I’m not sure where that qualifies in the world of prognostication, but it doesn’t sound too impressive.

Folks use all sorts of signs to forecast the severity of winter. Some folks believe a high number of fogs in August can be a warning of a bad winter. Others count the number of wooly worms, a type of caterpillar, as a sign of bad winter.

Others look at things such as the number of acorns produced by an oak tree. Still others base their predictions on how early the squirrels start putting the acorns away.

The bottom line is, the beginning of winter is Dec. 21 and it is supposed to last until March 20. That’s just the calendar dates.

I’ve been freezing in November and we had our worst snowstorm ever just seven days before the beginning of spring.

Regardless of what happens in Punxsutawney, don’t put your coat away this week. I don’t think winter is through with us. If I’m wrong, it’s no big deal. I’m ready.

I love this part of the country. We have four distinct seasons. I’m rather partial to spring and fall, but some days during the winter and summer I can do without.

A lot of people moved to places where it is warm all year. I think it could be rather boring. I visited San Diego and I think every day is sunny and in the mid-70s. Being a meteorologist there must not be fun.

On the other hand, I visited the home of a friend in Utah. He has a snowblower waiting and ready in his garage. I’m glad I don’t have to master that skill.

I know we can have some ups and downs in our weather patterns and I think that’s great. I like a little thunder and lightning to spice things up. I’m also content to be greeted by a beautiful sunrise or sunset.

So, let the groundhogs, wooly worms and squirrels do their thing. Right or wrong, we can just sit back and enjoy the wonderful daily display we have been given.

It just doesn’t get much better than what we have right here.

Harris Blackwood is a Gainesville resident whose columns appear on the Sunday Life page and on

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