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Wednesday, April 25 Opinion

In the Suburbs / Without the shadow of a doubt, that #!@#*! groundhog was right about winter

About two weeks ago, I skimmed an item in the Connecticut Post in which the writer claimed that Punxatawney Phil and his furry cohorts couldn't possibly be accurate about six more weeks of winter.

The story said there was no scientific evidence to support the ritualistic forecast based on whether a groundhog sees his shadow on Feb. 2

Well, I'm here to say that the weather we've had over the past two-plus weeks gives the groundhog a lot of credibility as a forecaster. Let's face it: Despite having a trainer, I don't think Punxatawney Phil rigged the shadow thing. He's been at this game for years.

And five snowstorms can't be wrong. Even with the warm up this week, we're still not out of the woods. I've heard reports that colder weather could return sometime next week.

Groundhog predictions aside, this winter definitely has been challenging. With each storm, more of the white stuff piles onto ice and makes traction more difficult. Last week, while walking my dogs in the yard at 5:30 a.m., I followed our littlest dog onto what I thought was solid snow and ice and fell face-first into a drift. My bruised hands are still healing.

Our house is on the market, and the storms have taken their toll on showings. Early this month, we had two cancellations from folks who planned to come up from Manhattan. Thankfully, my plow guy was able to clear the driveway for an unexpected showing last Friday afternoon. Otherwise, it has been very quiet.

Business people I know, including retailers, are feeling the pinch. As a per-diem substitute teacher in Bridgeport, I am caught in that snow-cancellation web. I had to chuckle earlier this week when my alternative plans went awry. Since Bridgeport had an extra day after the Presidents' Day holiday, I opted to try to sub in Fairfield, where schools were scheduled to be open Tuesday.

On Monday evening, I received an assignment for Tuesday. I got up early to walk and feed the dogs. But just as I was leaving for breakfast at my friendly diner, classes were canceled. I went for breakfast anyway, and by the time I returned home, there were 2-plus inches on the ground and roads were snow-packed.

Luckily, the local bookstore where I work part time needed help, and I worked a full day there.

These storms have brought out some strange behavior among some of my Fairfield neighbors. Last Wednesday afternoon, for instance, before the double-header storm, I stopped at two food markets and barely found parking spots. One would think that we were going to be snowed in for days or even weeks.

As I stood behind a customer in one of the markets, the cashier wondered aloud whether people in Chicago behave this way before storms. I'm from Chicago, so I piped up and said no, they don't.

I recalled Chicago's infamous blizzard of 1967. I'll accept that storm-tracking methods were nothing like they are today, but we certainly weren't out shopping the night before the storm. Twenty-seven inches and two days later, we shoveled the car out and began running errands.

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Chicago is just a place where snow and blizzards happen regularly. We were always thankful that we didn't live in Minneapolis.

The lingering question now is, What does Fairfield do with the snow? I've already seen many trucks hauling away snow from large parking lots. Years ago, after a huge blizzard hit us in Michigan, trucks hauled the snow to rail cars and shipped it someplace warm, we thought, on a regular basis. That year it was just about gone by April. I hope we don't have to wait that long.

Since we still have another three weeks or so before the official start of spring, I am just hopeful that this weather will moderate steadily and most of the snow will melt. But, as I am reminded regularly, this is New England, and anything is possible.

Meanwhile, I maintain my respect for groundhogs and will monitor the weather to see if, indeed, we have spring-like temperatures at the end of the six-week period. My guess is that we will.

Steven Gaynes is a Fairfield writer, and his "In the Suburbs" appears each Friday. He can be reached at steven.gaynes@yahoo.com.