An unwelcome, but short month

Published 7:45 pm Tuesday, February 7, 2017

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Groundhog Day has come and gone, and if you have tend to share the ancient belief that a sunny 2nd of February portends an early spring, then you’re either feeling pretty good or pretty disappointed, depending on whose rodent you’re watching.

Punxsutawney Phil, who lives in a cage up in Pennsylvania, is clearly the best-known purveyor of the ancient myth thanks to the Punxsutawney Chamber of Commerce, which has managed to turn him into a national celebrity. He saw his shadow. Back in the den, Phil is reportedly hunkered down for another six weeks of wintry weather.

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Down here in Virginia, meanwhile, a groundhog going by the name of Chesapeake Chuck did not see his shadow when he was taken outdoors by his owner, the Virginia Living Museum in Newport News. So Chuck is ostensibly basking in the belief that an early spring will arrive.

Of courst, there could be a late spring in Pennsylvania and an early one in Virginia. Or neither.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration looks at weather a bit more globally than whether there’s a cloud over Newport News or Punxsutawney, but those folks also can’t be sure what will happen a month from now. Thus, since the groundhogs have a 50 percent chance of being right, they’re probably as close as anybody.

Personally, I’m just happy that February is our shortest month, and appropriately so, simply because by the time it arrives, we are eager for Spring.

January to be unpleasant. It comes in the dead of winter and it’s supposed to be cold and generally wet. The days are short, the nights long and cold, and everybody accepts it for what it is. Might as well take it on the chin for 31 days and get it over with.

By Valentine’s Day, though, we’re growing weary of the whole business of winter, eager for spring to arrive, even though we know that March can be pretty unpleasant as well.

So we’ve shortened February to make time move toward spring just a little faster. But shorten it as we will, February is still winter and doesn’t want us to forget it.

February can bring a couple of days in the 60’s and you think the worst is past. Then the nighttime temperatures drop back into the low 20’s, the highs barely reach 40, and all you want is for it to be over. And so it goes. Only 28 days in this wasted month and then it’s on to March winds, drier days and the increasing likelihood of a warm day or so.

Here’s something to ponder. A couple of the worst snows we’ve had in these parts came in late February and early March, including the blizzard of 1980, when nearly two feet of snow shut down transportation in Southeast Virginia.

Snow drifted across roads so deep that a huge snow plow had to be brought in to bust a path through the deepest places.

And then, as suddenly as the temperature had dropped, it rose again, well into the 60’s, and the snow melted within a couple days.It was just one of those reminders that winters can be late, even in Tidewater.

Nevertheless, we look at the calendar this time of year and see spring around the corner, and with it the hope of longer, warmer, sunnier days. Our hopes will rise when February is just about gone once again.