Octoraro Orphie casts shadow over spring - LancasterOnline: News

Octoraro Orphie casts shadow over spring

Southern-end marmot predicts six more weeks of winter after he sees his silhouette on a cold, rainy, hazy morning

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Posted: Wednesday, February 2, 2011 2:41 pm | Updated: 3:14 pm, Thu Oct 3, 2013.

Maybe it's science. Maybe it's some kind of groundhog magic.

But somehow, despite the foggy, rarefied air south of Quarryville early Wednesday morning, Octoraro Orphie saw his shadow.

Sure, there was a thick, cold rain falling from the sky, a white haze rising from the melting snow and a pall of smoke wafting from cigars clenched between the teeth of somber-eyed members of the Slumbering Groundhog Lodge, but that didn't stop Orphie from predicting six more weeks of winter.

"There must have been a flash of light," Orphie's official mouthpiece, Hibernating Governor Richard M. Rankin, said later, with a smile. "I guess the clouds must have parted."

Festivities at the Chateau in the Valley of White Rock, where the Slumbering Groundhog Lodge of Quarryville annually fetes its resident whistlepig, were cheerful Wednesday morning despite the weather. The day began bright and early, at 4:30 a.m., with breakfast in the lodge.

"Unfortunately, we're dealing with some messy weather today, but it could have been worse," Rankin said. "When I got up at 3 a.m., it was pouring."

A nearby covered bridge spanning Octorara Creek set the stage when, at precisely 7:13 a.m. Groundhog Standard Time, lodge members raised Orphie to the heavens and cast their eyes downward for a glimpse of a shadow.

But the main event didn't get going until shortly after 8 a.m., when the lodge faithful, along with a scattering of brave-hearted spectators, paraded from the bridge, through a rutted and muddy parking lot, to the white wooden manure spreader dubbed the Pinnacle of Prognostication. A mist-covered hillside, dotted with ice- and snow-laden trees, completed the scene behind them.

VIDEO: Octoraro Orphie makes his annual prediction

There, Rankin listened attentively as the lodge's various squads - including the puddle ducks, the pickles and the dunked squad - made their poetic reports on the morning's forecast. All agreed, Orphie had seen his shadow.

"Let's all have some fun. This winter is not done," one white-coated, top-hatted member chanted.

"That means six more weeks of winter, which I'm sure a lot of people aren't happy to hear," Rankin said.

"But that's the forecast. In 103 years, Orphie's never been wrong, and we certainly don't expect him to be wrong this year. So don't put away your snow shovels, and get ready for more snow and bad weather for the next six weeks."

There is some disagreement on Orphie's ruling, however. Rival groundhog Punxsutawney Phil, who makes his burrow in Gobbler's Knob in northwestern Pennsylvania, emerged at 7:20 a.m. Wednesday and saw no shadow - a clear indication of an early spring.

RELATED: Punxsutawney Phil fails to see shadow, predicting early spring

That doesn't phase the Quarryville crowd, who derided Phil as a poser and raised up Orphie - stuffed, mounted and wearing a little hat - as the "true prognosticator."

Additional festivities in Quarryville included a brief skit, a few remarks from lodge dignitaries, a bit of music and lots and lots of doughnuts.

Groundhog Day is an annual tradition celebrated on Feb. 2 in the United States and Canada.

Rooted in European lore, Groundhog Day is actually a Pennsylvania German tradition dating to the 18th century.

According to custom, a groundhog will emerge from its burrow on a cloudy day, signifying that winter will soon end. If it is sunny, however, the groundhog will see its shadow and retreat underground, indicating six more weeks of winter.

tknapp@lnpnews.com

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