04 Feb Groundhog Day: Sir Walter Wally Makes Prediction For NC
CHARLOTTE, NC — With all due respect to that rodent in Pennsylvania, it’s Sir Walter Wally who makes the call on Groundhog Day in North Carolina. And, this year, North Carolina’s own four-legged prognosticator says that we’re due for an early spring.
That forecast, however, completely contradicts the more widely revered prediction by the Pennsylvania whistle pig, Punxsutawney Phil, who earlier Friday morning said we were all in for six more weeks of winter.
The same rules apply for Wally as for Punxsutawney Phil. If he comes out to embrace the day, that means winter is almost over. If he sees his shadow and heads back inside, that’s a sign that six more weeks of chilly weather are on the way.
When it comes to rodent weather forecasting, who are you to believe?
Wally has been making forecast for his fellow North Carolina residents for 20 years, and his keepers at the North Carolina Natural Science Museum in Raleigh credit his long lifespan and "youthful vigor" to a regimen of drinking magical elixirs from crushed acorns off the oldest oak trees found in Raleigh, according to the North Carolina Department of Natural and Cultural Resources.
"Wally has proven a far better prognosticator than his cousin Punxsutawney Phil – since Wally began predicting he has been right 58% of the time while Phil has been right only 37% of the time," NC DNCR said in a statement. "Both groundhogs were correct last year in their predictions of an early spring."
Wally is one of several weather predicting varmints that call North Carolina home. Chimney Rock State Park has its own groundhog, Greta, and the N.C. Zoo Wildlife Rehabilitation Center is home to Sunshine and Stormy, NC DNCR said.
So how did Punxsutawney Phil become the nationally recognized voice of all weather predicting rodents? It turns out he had really good marketing. In 1887, the editor of Punxsutawney’s newspaper, Clymer H. Freas, began promoting the Pennsylvania groundhog as the official "Groundhog Day meteorologist."
Groundhog Day his its roots around the Fifth Century. European Celts believed that animals had supernatural abilities to predict the weather, a fact they believed was particularly true on the day halfway between the Winter Equinox and Spring Solstice — or 40 days after Christmas and 40 days before Easter.
German and French folklore also held that when groundhogs and bears came out of their winter dens too early, they would be frightened by their shadows and retreat back into their lairs for another four to six weeks.
In the early Christian era, the formerly pagan observance became "Candlemas Day," and in the United States, Candlemas Day became Groundhog Day.
Patch Editor Doug Gross contributed reporting.
Photo courtesy of NC Museum of Natural Sciences