WATCH ABOVE: Wiarton Willy bucks trend, predicts early spring
WIARTON, Ont. – One of Canada’s celebrity groundhogs predicted a short winter on Monday, as the latest snowstorm blanketed most of Ontario and Quebec before making its way to the Maritimes.
A crowd of about 100 people erupted in cheers as Ontario’s Wiarton Willie emerged from his burrow and did not see his shadow, predicting an early spring.
Willie seemed nonplussed from being woken from his winter hibernation the day before, and snuggled in a bed of straw in his tiny cube for warmth.
In Nova Scotia, meanwhile, Shubenacadie Sam saw his shadow, which according to groundhog folklore means six more weeks of winter.
“Given the weather forecast and the amount of snow currently on the ground, Sam’s prediction likely isn’t a surprise to most Nova Scotians,” said Zach Churchill, the province’s natural resources minister.
WATCH ABOVE: It’s Groundhog Day! At 8 a.m. Shubenacadie Sam predicted six more weeks of winter. Watch the festivities unfold.
The small town of Wiarton, in southern Ontario, was abuzz with Willie’s news of an early spring, which went against the forecast of both Sam and Pennsylvania’s Punxsutawney Phil, both predicting six more weeks of winter.
“I think the other two don’t know what they’re talking about,” said Wiarton Mayor Janice Jackson, who leaned in to “listen” to Willie before screaming “It’s an early spring!” to the crowd.
The rowdy group didn’t wait around long as many scurried off to their cars to get out of the -16C weather and gusty winds.
The groundhogs’ predictions came as winter walloped much of Ontario and Quebec. Environment Canada has issued blizzard and cold weather warnings for much of Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and P.E.I.
New Brunswick could get up to 40 centimetres of snow, while snow is expected to turn to ice pellets or freezing rain in P.E.I.
Last year, only Willie was correct when he spotted his shadow.
Neither Shubenacadie Sam nor the lesser-known Winnipeg Willow saw theirs, thereby forecasting an early spring.
They were wrong. A polar vortex plunged Canada into a brutal winter that dragged on and on.
Environment Canada has already crunched the data for the next month and come up with this prediction: February will be colder than normal across the country.
Senior climatologist Dave Phillips noted Wiarton Willie’s overall record is spotty, but says predicting the weather is a tough gig.
“His batting average is not that great… but hey, neither is ours.”
Willie’s handler, Don Crain, said he woke the groundhog up yesterday to prepare for Groundhog Day with some lettuce at his indoor pen at a nearby restaurant.
WATCH ABOVE: In Pennsylvania, Punxsutawney Phil sees his shadow and predicts 6 more weeks of winter
After the proclamation, Crain rewarded Willie with his favourite snack – cauliflower.
Willie can be grumpy when he’s woken from hibernation, Crain said.
“It’s like waking up a teenager,” he said with a laugh.
Willie will fall back into his slumber some time Monday and wake up when the weather improves.