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wanted for prosecution: one groundhog

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Column by Jim Clark

When I was a kid, living up north, I always wondered how, on Feb. 2, some silly little animal in Pennsylvania could predict the weather.
It was Groundhog Day, and supposedly if the groundhog saw his shadow and scurried back into his hole, there would be six more weeks of winter. If he didn’t see his shadow, there would be an early spring.
The biggest celebration is in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania. In fact, a cult movie starring Bill Murray was made in 1993 featuring this festival and, indeed, a festival has built up around this holiday.
The people in Pennsylvania take this quite seriously.
So imagine their chagrin when the prosecuting attorney (similar to our state attorney and big cities’ district attorneys) of Butler County, Ohio, issued an indictment against Punxsutawney Phil, the groundhog, for lying about winter.
It seems that Phil said there would be an early spring, and last week and this week mid-Ohio, as well as Pennsylvania, was buried under several inches of snow.
The tongue-in-cheek indictment from Ohio went even further … it sought the death penalty against Phil.
This, of course, raised the ire of the folks in Pennsylvania. They have sent a letter to Butler County, Ohio, with a cease and desist order, claiming that the prosecutor in Ohio had no jurisdiction over any event that happened in Pennsylvania.
And you thought you had problems? What’s next – extradition?
Poor Phil. He was awakened from his winter hibernation by some guy in a funny hat and crazy outfit, pulled out of his cozy hole into the frozen tundra of Pennsylvania, given a quick look at the ground to see if his shadow was there, and then put back for the rest of his slumber.
And what does he find upon his awakening? Only that a contract has been put out on him by the people of Ohio.
While, of course, this is just a fun event, it does bring into focus the problems faced by weather forecasters. Just 11 days ago the local TV forecasters were telling us to get ready for a dry spell, with no rain for at least 12 days. Since then, we’ve had two fronts come through, the latest over the weekend, some with violent weather attached.
The weather patterns have been a little strange, and as of this writing Monday our temperatures are dipping into jacket weather again.
So while you consider the plight of weather forecasters, consider what Phil in Pennsylvania is going through. While we may blame the local forecasters for messing up our weekends, at least we don’t put contracts out on them. But poor Phil … he’ll have to look over his shoulder until the weather warms up.

Jim Clark is the editor of the South Marion Citizen.