Weather prognosticating Punxsutawney Phil has predicted six more weeks of winter, but Montezuma County’s resident prognosticator, weather watcher James Andrus, is predicting more weeks of sunshine.
The handlers of Punxsutawney Phil the groundhog said the furry rodent has called for six more weeks of winter after seeing his shadow at dawn Friday.
In Cortez, where temperatures have reached record highs several times this winter, Andrus said residents should expect more of the same for the next few weeks.
“The first half of February is going to be bone-dry,” he said.
The area got some drought relief in January, with a few snow and rain storms, but Andrus said it still only reached 85 percent of normal snowfall for this time of year. The high-pressure ridge that briefly broke up during January has reasserted itself over southwestern Colorado, blocking storm clouds from moving through the area. According to the National Weather Service station in Grand Junction, high temperatures will remain in the 50s all weekend, with few clouds in the sky.
Forecasters predict the McPhee Reservoir will get a full supply of irrigation water for the farming season, thanks to leftover runoff from last year’s record snowpack, but there will likely be no whitewater spill below the dam, and unless the mountains get more snowfall before the end of winter, there may be some minor shortages. According to the latest data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, snowpack levels in the San Miguel, Dolores, Animas and San Juan River basins were at 36 percent of normal as of Thursday.
The top hat-wearing members of the Punxsutawney Groundhog Club’s Inner Circle in Pennsylvania reveal Phil’s forecast every Feb. 2. It is based on a German legend surrounding Candlemas. The legend says if a furry rodent casts a shadow that day, winter continues. If not, spring comes early.
In reality, Phil’s prediction is decided ahead of time by the group on Gobbler’s Knob, a tiny hill just outside Punxsutawney about 65 miles (about 100 kilometers) northeast of Pittsburgh.
Records dating to 1887 show Phil has now predicted more winter 103 times while forecasting an early spring just 18 times — including last year. There are no records for the remaining years.
At the Staten Island Zoo In New York, Staten Island Chuck had a difference of opinion with Phil. Chuck — a three-decade veteran of weather predictions — did not see his shadow. That means he’s predicting an early spring.
In Montezuma County, residents are still waiting for winter to set in. Andrus said the county has had 3.1 inches of snow over the entire winter, just 10 percent of the normal 32 inches of winter snowfall.
The Associated press contributed to this article.