WEST ORANGE, NJ – "You want a prediction about the weather; you're asking the wrong Phil. I'll give you a winter prediction: It's gonna be cold, it's gonna be grey, and it's gonna last you for the rest of your life." Not sure where the quote originated? Well, then it's time to watch the 1993 Bill Murray classic, "Groundhog Day."
The annual day set aside to predict the arrival of spring fell on Tuesday. According to folklore, if a groundhog sees his shadow, there will be six more weeks of winter. If he doesn't, then spring will be arriving early.
On Feb. 2, West Orange residents didn’t have to plan a long trip out to Punxsutawney, Pa., Milltown, NJ, Space Farms Zoo and Museum in Sussex County, NJ, or to the Staten Island Zoo for answers this year.
The locals simply went over to the town’s Turtle Back Zoo', where Otis the Hedgehog, an ambassador prognosticator, saw his shadow on Groundhog Day, thus predicting six more weeks of cold weather. And, some jokingly said, “He also predicted that the Carolina Panthers would defeat the Denver Broncos in Super Bowl 50."
This year, Otis stepped in for Essex Ed, who went into a deep hibernation because of the unusually warm December temperatures
In New York City, Mayor de Blasio skipped the yearly groundhog hoopla at the zoo this year. Staten Island Chuck's replacement was probably happy to hear that since the mayor's first Groundhog Day in 2014 didn't end well. Chuck died a week after falling from the mayor's hands during his inaugural Groundhog Day. Last year, the mayor avoided handling the groundhog at all. On Tuesday, he was far away from any woodchuck, campaigning for Hillary Clinton in Iowa.
The event did, however, go on without him and Staten Island Chuck had a different outcome from that of Otis—he did not see his shadow predicting an early spring.
Staten Island's "famed" groundhog has been correct 67 percent of the time, according to zoo officials.
In Milltown, Milltown Mel II made his first-ever prediction, where he agreed with Otis—six more weeks of winter.
There was almost another other Jersey groundhog throwing his spring predictions into the mix on Tuesday. But Unfortunately, Sussex County's Stonewall Jackson died Monday evening--just a few hours before making his prediction at the Space Farms Zoo and Museum. The event had to be canceled.
However, central Pennsylvania, Punxsutawney Phil, another "famous" groundhog meteorologist threw his hat in the ring. And contrary to Otis, he didn't see his shadow—predicting an early spring.
So will it be six more weeks of winter or an early spring? Right now the score is 2-2, with Otis and Milltown Mel II predicting more winter and Staten Island Chuck and Punxsutawney Phil predicting an early spring.
Who knows? As Bill Murray's character, Phil, put it, "This is one time where television really fails to capture the true excitement of a large squirrel predicting the weather."
While local residents have seen a mild winter so far, with one large storm followed by a mild one, and the use of three snow days—residents may not want to put away their shovels, boots and scrapers just yet. According to the National Weather Service, Otis and Milltown Mel II are in the lead. There is a slight chance of snow predicted for Sunday night into early Monday morning, with snow likely in the evening too; snow likely on Tuesday; and a chance of snow on Wednesday.