Wiarton Willie predicts early spring; Shubenacadie Sam says there’s more winter to come

There are conflicting predictions from Canada’s two most famous forecasting groundhogs, with Wiarton Willie heralding an early spring while Shubenacadie Sam claims there will be six more weeks of winter.

The mayor of the Town of South Bruce Peninsula, which includes the community of Wiarton, announced Willie’s prediction on stage with Premier Doug Ford on Saturday morning.

Folklore has it that if a groundhog sees its shadow on Groundhog Day, it will retreat into its burrow, heralding six more weeks of cold weather. But spring-like temperatures are thought to be on the way if no shadow is seen.

Willie was backed up by the most famous American groundhog, Punxsutawney Phil.

But Shubenacadie Sam, Nova Scotia’s Groundhog Day darling, grudgingly clambered out of his shelter just after dawn, saw his shadow, and retreated into hiding.

Tabitha Cox, head nature interpreter at the wildlife park where Sam lives, said about 200 people came out to the park in frosty weather to watch the furry forecaster make his prediction.

“I heard some booing,” she said. “People love it or hate it with winter.”

The wildlife park has held Groundhog Day events for the past 30 or so years, and Cox says there’s a “Shubenacadie Sam family” of groundhogs that are used to make their forecasts.

Meanwhile, Val D’Espoir, Que.-based Fred la marmotte was carried out of a little log cabin and predicted winter would go on for another six weeks.

But the human weather experts say the odd ritual has a terrible record when it comes to predicting the weather.

In his book, “The Day Niagara Falls Ran Dry,” climatologist David Phillips cites a survey of 40 years of weather data from 13 Canadian cities, which concluded there was an equal number of cloudy and sunny days on Feb. 2 — and during that time, the groundhogs’ predictions were right only 37 per cent of the time.

But Cox said that despite the hit-or-mostly-miss nature of these forecasts, it’s important to keep the tradition alive for Canadians who want to have some fun and blow off some mid-winter steam.

“I think it’s just because it’s something fun in the dead of winter,” she said. ”(There’s) not much else going on, Christmas and New Year’s are well over, Easter’s still a long way away. It’s just a chance to have some fun.”

Last year, Sam predicted a quicker onset of warmer weather, while Willie forecast six more weeks of winter.

The Canadian Press

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