Archive for Wednesday, February 4, 2004

Tonganoxie Phil: Spring is in the offing

February 4, 2004

The skies over Tonganoxie brought something of a mixed message on Monday, Groundhog Day.

That's the day that Tonganoxie Phil -- whose alter ego is Dr. Philip Stevens -- annually predicts when spring will arrive.

"Doggone it, I've looked out and I can see my shadow," Stevens said about 11:30 a.m. Monday.

But Stevens decided that what he saw on his first venture outside early Monday morning would serve well as his official weather forecast for the next six weeks.

"I went out early and couldn't see my shadow," he said. "When I woke up this morning, I looked everywhere and couldn't find a shadow, and I knew immediately we were going to have an early spring. It's time to get out the seed catalogs and get the garden plowed and get the flowers ready."

And after the past weekend's wintry blast, Stevens is more than ready for a break from cold, freezing rain and snow.

"I've had enough winter," he said. "After three ice storms, I was really hoping for an early, early spring."

According to legend, shadows indicate six more weeks of winter, while no shadows means an early spring.

Stevens' debut as a weather predictor came several years ago when he was a guest on Feb. 2 on KBEQ radio station's morning show, in his role as Tonganoxie Phil. In 2002, Stevens wasn't on air because the special day fell on Saturday. And in 2003, Stevens again was passed over because the radio personality who originally had asked him went to another station.

Even though he's not a radio star any longer, the good doctor continues to assume the Tonganoxie Phil persona every Groundhog Day.

Early Monday morning, he was gleeful that he couldn't see his shadow.

Stevens' more-famous counterpart -- Punxsutawney Phil, a Pennsylvania groundhog -- did see his shadow Monday morning, signaling more winter weather -- at least for Pennsylvania.

The Groundhog Day tradition is based on a German superstition that an animal casting its shadow on Feb. 2 -- the Christian holiday of Candlemas -- means another six weeks of winter is coming. Otherwise, it suggests an early spring.

Tonganoxie Phil's track record is, well, mixed.

"I'm 100 percent accurate half the time, and the other half we don't count," Stevens said, his tongue firmly planted in his cheek.

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