Archive for Wednesday, February 8, 2006

Tonganoxie Phil appears on target with recent forecast

February 8, 2006

As if on cue, Tonganoxie's balmy weather took a sharp turn toward a traditional winter last Friday.

Could it be that Tonganoxie Phil -- the local answer to Punxsutawney Phil -- has the pinpoint accuracy reserved for such weather forecasting tools as Doppler Radar?

On Thursday morning -- Groundhog Day -- Tonganoxie Phil poked his nose out of his door on Pleasant Street and walked into the sunshine. There, he saw his shadow.

"Oh my gosh, it was a very bright, clear shadow," said Dr. Phil Stevens, who for the past several years has good-naturedly taken on the Tonganoxie Phil persona.

"There's no doubt we're in for it. I think we're going to slide into winter, instead of fall into it. I think we're going to have some bad weather for about six weeks."

According to legend, shadows seen on Feb. 2 indicate six more weeks of winter, while no shadows means an early spring. In Punxsutawney, Pa., the folks depend on a groundhog, which also saw its shadow last Thursday. So this year, Tonganoxie Phil agrees with his groundhog counterpart that the mild winter is on the way out.

"We had at least a month of spring weather in January," Tonganoxie Phil said. "The pendulum always swings. Now, we're going to get the flip side of that. We're going to pay for it."

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.

Even though the local forecaster predicts a six-week bout with winter, he's not looking forward to leaving behind one of the warmest Januarys on record.

"I loved that weather," Stevens said. "I wouldn't mind it if it stayed 50 or 60 degrees year-round."

Stevens got his start as Tonganoxie Phil several years ago when he was a guest on KBEQ radio station's morning show. Although the radio personality who originally had asked him moved to another station, Stevens has continued the practice of noting whether he can see his shadow on Groundhog Day.

No one, however, has tracked just how accurate the physician's weather-forecasting has been.

"The way I look at it, even a stopped clock is right twice a day," he said during an interview punctuated with laughter. "You've got to be right once in a while."

Then he added, "I'm sorry about the weather. It's my job. Somebody's got to do it."

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