, Salem, MA


February 2, 2013

Weather forecasters and Punxsutawney Phil have much in common

My father, a man who has always danced to his own drummer, is perhaps the only person I know who celebrates Groundhog Day. Sometimes he sends Groundhog Day cards and gifts to his kids and grandkids, and I know that he once attended that famous ceremony in Punxsutawney, Pa., which takes place today at 7:25 a.m.

Yes, today’s the day when officials dress in their tuxes and top hats to gather on Gobblers Knob and consult Punxsutawney Phil, that famous prognosticating rodent.  If Phil sees his shadow, he will announce six more weeks of winter; if he doesn’t we may be welcoming an early spring .

No offense to my dad, but I read in a children’s book the other day that Phil’s predictions have only been accurate one-third of the time. This means that even though Phil has not been accurate two-thirds of the time, people keep gathering at 7:25 a.m. in rural Punxsutawney to consult Phil and perhaps get a glimpse of his famous wife Phyllis. And this has been going on for 127 years! 

This reminds me of our weather forecasters. Just like Phil, those weather forecasters keep doing their thing and we keep listening. The other day, as we were bracing for a snowstorm and nothing materialized, I thought, “Why do I give credence to anything that they say?”

I think if you want to know the weather, it is much more intelligent to walk outside your door and take a look. Sorry if I’m knocking a lovely tradition, Dad, but I don’t think it’s smart to rely on weather forecasters or groundhogs for this information.   

Mary Alice Cookson is a Beverly-based columnist. She welcomes comments at

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