National News

Raleigh's Wally Agrees With Phil, Predicts More Winter

Posted February 2, 2008

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— The agreement of Raleigh's own Sir Walter Wally gave a boost to Pennsylvania's Punxsutawney Phil's prediction: six more weeks of winter.

Sir Walter Wally, who has made predictions in downtown Raleigh since 1998, is more accurate than Phil, said Liz Jones with the N.C. Museum of Natural Sciences.

"In the last 10 years, he has a 60 percent accuracy rate, which is better than the famous Phil," Jones said. For more information on Wally's record, click here.

Informal studies credit Phil with an accuracy rate of anywhere between 25 and 40 percent. Since 1886, Phil has seen his shadow 96 times and has not seen it 15 times. His observations went unrecorded for nine years.

Wally made his prediction in the Shadow Ceremony at noon Saturday outside the N.C. Museum of Natural Sciences, at Jones and Salisbury streets downtown. Afterwords, children can met and got their pictures taken with Wally.

Events – including exhibits on animals in the winter and spring, the history of Groundhog's Day, games and crafts – extended through the afternoon the Museum from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Wally confirmed what Jones said his antsy behavior at the WRAL studios early Saturday indicated, that warm-weather lovers will have ample time to practice patience before spring arrives.

Punxsutawney Phil saw his shadow when he was pulled from his stump by members of the Punxsutawney Groundhog Club Inner Circle, top-hat- and tuxedo-wearing businessmen, who are responsible for carrying out the tradition.

Gen. Beauregard Lee forecast an early spring at the Yellow River Game Ranch in Lilburn, Georgia.

Groundhog's Day celebrates a European superstition that if a hibernating animal sees a shadow on Feb. 2 – the Christian holiday of Candlemas – winter will last another six weeks. If no shadow is seen, legend says spring will come early.

"Groundhog's Day is halfway between the beginning of winter and the beginning of spring, so some people are getting a little antsy about when spring's coming," Jones explained the origins of the holiday.

 "Europeans have looked at different types of animals to forecast the weather for hundreds of years. ... Hedgehogs were used a lot," Jones added. "When (Europeans) came to America, there were no hedgehogs, so they looked for the next best thing. And groundhogs are pretty similar to hedgehogs in how they live, so groundhogs became the new forecasters."

As for Sir Walter Wally, perhaps his predictive ability stems from his own run of luck.

Wally was hit by a car, but was rescued, rehabilitated and now lives in a wildlife sanctuary in North Carolina mountains, where he will stay for the rest of his life.

"He's famous now, so he's kind of got a good track record going for him," Jones said.


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