Six more weeks of winter? Let's see what FuFu says about that
Ho-hum. Punxsutawney Phil, the famous weather-forecasting rodent from Gobblers Knob, saw his shadow Friday morning in Pennsylvania and predicted six more weeks of winter.
Portlanders, however, don't have to worry about more nasty weather. FuFu, an African pygmy hedgehog, didn't see her shadow Friday morning, so it's unlikely we'll see a lot more winter.
The Oregon Zoo's cute hedgehog has a better track record on weather prediction than the East Coast's celebrity groundhog. She popped up and took stock of the weather situation during a Friday morning ceremony, Feb. 2, at the zoo.
"Groundhogs like Punxsutawney Phil are relative newcomers to the game," said animal curator Tanya Paul, who oversees the zoo hedgehog family. "According to folklore, the Europeans who originated the tradition originally used hedgehogs. When they immigrated to the United States, they realized their new home didn't have hedgehogs, so they turned to the groundhog out of necessity. But FuFu is bringing the holiday back to its origins."
Being cute isn't the only thing hedgehogs are good at. They're pretty good prognosticators too. According to StormFax Weather Almanac, Punxsutawney Phil has made accurate weather predictions about 39 percent of the time. Oregon Zoo hedgehogs have been accurate about 53 percent of the time.
"Last year FuFu predicted an early spring, which was fairly accurate for this region," Paul said. "It was bitterly cold on the day she made her prediction, but mild temperatures returned in less than a week and continued into March. On the other hand, we had our wettest February on record — in Portland, 'early spring' can also mean extra rain."
According to AccuWeather of State College, Penn., Phil's Groundhog Day prediction is probably right for the East Coast and Midwest. Both regions are in for cold weather in February. A storm track from the East Coast will hang around the Northeast and mid-Atlantic throughout February, allowing for a few powerful storms to impact the I-95 corridor, according to AccuWeather Expert Long-Range Forecast Paul Pastelok.
Across the Midwest and northern Plains, a blast of arctic air caused by a shifting polar vortex will cause temperatures to plummet, Pastelok said. In the southern Plains, one or two big cold waves are expected before spring shows up on March 20.
The rest of the nation, including the Northwest, could see gradually warming from March into April, he said.