Local News

Sir Walter Wally predicts six more weeks of winter

Posted February 2, 2013 8:00 a.m. EST
Updated February 2, 2013 7:29 p.m. EST

— With temperatures in central North Carolina fluctuating between the upper teens and 70s in the last week alone, predicting what will happen next is an almost impossible job. 

Frustrated forecasters got a day off Saturday when Sir Walter Wally, the Triangle's answer to Pennsylvania's Punxsutawney Phil, saw his shadow and predicted six more weeks of winter. 

Wally's prognostication was in stark contrast to Phil, who predicted an early spring Saturday after emerging from his lair in chilly Gobbler's Knob, Pa. just before 7:30 a.m. Wally is right about 47 percent of the time, according to his handlers.

In Charlotte, Queen Charlotte didn't see her shadow when she came out around 11:30 a.m., predicting an early spring.

Saturday afternoon, Wally's prediction seemed quite appropriate. Temperatures were in the low 40s across much of central North Carolina, and some spots in the western part of the state were seeing snow flurries. 

Some flurries could reach the Triangle Saturday evening, but no accumulation is expected, WRAL meteorologist Aimee Wilmoth said. 

The Pennsylvania prediction is made during a ceremony overseen by a group called the Inner Circle. Members don top hats and tuxedos for the ceremony on Groundhog Day each year.

Bill Deeley, president of the Inner Circle, says that after "consulting" with Phil, he makes the call in deciphering what the world's Punxsutawney Phil has to say about the weather.

Phil is known as the "seer of seers" and "sage of sages." Organizers predicted about 20,000 people this weekend, a larger-than-normal crowd because Groundhog Day falls on a weekend this year.

In Raleigh, Groundhog Day festivities began at the museum at 9 a.m. Following Wally's prediction, an afternoon full of activities will keep kids entertained until 5 p.m.

"We have a of activities for kids," Bonnie Eamick, with the Museum of Natural sciences, said. "We have crafts, games, Wally, and then kids can also come and learn what animals do during the winter."

The Groundhog Day celebration is rooted in a German superstition that says if a hibernating animal casts a shadow on Feb. 2, the Christian holiday of Candlemas, winter will last another six weeks. If no shadow was seen, legend said spring would come early.

Garner will get in on the act as well, as Mortimer the Groundhog makes his prediction at the White Deer Park Nature Center at noon.