Keep your snow shovels handy, groundhogs advise

It's unanimous — three of the best-known North American weather-savvy groundhogs indicated Monday that six more weeks of snowy roads, icy sidewalks and freezing temperatures are in the cards.
Mayor Gwen Gilbert listens as Wiarton Willie makes his forecast in Wiarton, Ont., here in a file photo from last year. On Monday he saw his shadow, suggesting six more weeks of winter. ((Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press))

It's unanimous — three of the best-known North American weather-savvy groundhogs indicated Monday that six more weeks of snowy roads, icy sidewalks and freezing temperatures are in the cards.

Nova Scotia's Shubenacadie Sam, Ontario's Wiarton Willie and Punxsutawney Phil of Gobbler's Knob, Pa., were awakened from their winter slumber where they all, according to their handlers, saw their shadows.

Tradition suggests that means there will be six more weeks of wintry weather.

Sam, whose Atlantic time zone gives him a jump on other weather-predicting groundhogs, was roused by a town crier and the skirl of bagpipes at the Shubenacadie Wildlife Park, about an hour's drive north of Halifax.

Sam saw his shadow as he slowly crawled out to greet a crowd of schoolchildren under partly sunny skies.

In Wiarton, Ont., crowds booed and groaned as Willie — an albino groundhog — saw his shadow. It's a change for Willie, who had failed to see his shadow from 2004 through 2008.

Punxsutawney Phil, whose ancestors have been making weather predictions in the state since 1887, also called for six more weeks of winter through his interpreter, Bill Cooper.

Phil also used his time in the spotlight to offer congratulations to the Super Bowl champion Pittsburgh Steelers, according to Cooper.

Two lesser-known — and less rodential — seers also appeared to support the prediction of a longer winter.

Alberta's Balzac Billy, which isn't a live groundhog but a stuffed mascot, saw its shadow during an appearance in the hamlet about eight kilometres north of Calgary. Manitoba Merv, a puppet that pops up from beneath the snow, also saw its shadow during a morning appearance in Oak Hammond Marsh, Man.

With files from the Canadian Press