An unusually cold, wet winter has Georgians hoping Gen. Beauregard Lee will not see his shadow today.
According to folklore, if Georgia’s official weather-predicting groundhog comes out of his burrow and sees his shadow, it means six more weeks of winter. If not, it’s a sign of an early spring.
According to assistant state climatologist Pam Knox, this winter has indeed been the coldest in years.
On average, Knox said statewide temperatures were 2 to 6 degrees below normal.
"We haven’t had a really cold winter in a while so I think that colors people’s perceptions," Knox said.
The winter has also been wet due to the El Niño weather pattern.
"The southern part of Georgia — in January, some places got over 10 inches of rain," Knox said. "It also means it allows cold air to comedown from the Arctic."
But Knox said in Georgia, regardless of the groundhog’s prediction, there are typically always six more weeks of winter.
The meteorological calendar considers the months of December, January and February winter. The months of March, April and May are labeled spring, with March 20 the official start as the spring equinox. "We do it by month because most of the historical data is kept by month and those are the three coldest months here in Georgia," Knox said.
But while March signals spring, Georgia often gets one last cold spell during the month. "It’s not at all unusual to get some pretty cold weather in March," Knox said. "Some of the big snowstorms we’ve had in the Southeast, like the (blizzard) of 1993, the storm of the century, that was a March storm."
The late cold snaps can be devastating to fruit crops and flowers that have already started to bloom.
"We certainly could see more breakouts of cold but it doesn’t happen the same way every year," Knox said.
Knox’s predictions also go beyond those of the groundhogs — if the weather continues to follow a traditional El Niño pattern, it will likely be a dry spring.