A brief history of Saskatchewan's attempts to possess an official groundhog
The annual spectacle of Groundhog Day is here. However, in Saskatchewan, the prophesying event is without its central figure, an official groundhog.
A total of five provinces across Canada have an official marmot for the occasion. From Shubenacadie Sam in Nova Scotia to Van Isle Violet in B.C.
However, in place of an official groundhog, the land of living skies has seen an abundance of forecasting from some peculiar and notable sources.
'SNEWSIE': MOOSE JAW’S PROPHESYING GOPHER
“Snewsie” was the brainchild of Warren Michelson, who came up with the idea while working as an ad executive at the Moose Jaw Times Herald.
Snewsie was the annual weather predictor for Canada’s “Most Notorious City” for a number of years in the mid 2000’s.
“We got our own Snewsie, predicting the weather for all of western Canada and its right here in Moose Jaw,” Michelson told CTV News Regina in 2008.
“We needed something that would be more localized and we thought well, the gopher being the cousin of the groundhog would be a practical thing. Its native to this area and it could tell us what the future is going to be as far as weather.”
Snewsie was of course not an actual gopher, but an anonymous Moose Jaw resident that dressed as the symbol of the prairies while delivering the forecast for the coming spring season.
GAINER THE GOPHER: A MASCOT AND FORECASTER
The mascot of the Saskatchewan Roughriders stood in for the proverbial fortune-telling rodent at an event in Dundurn in February of 2012.
CTV News Saskatoon reported from the event that Gainer emerged and did not see his shadow, indicating an early spring that year.
As it turns out, Gainer was actually correct in his assumption and the above seasonal winter led to an early spring in 2012.
WHELAN WOODY: THE UNOFFICIAL PROGNOSTICATOR
As it turns out, Saskatchewan did have an unofficial groundhog from 2014 to 2018.
Woody the Woodchuck, or Whelan Woody as he was best known as, actively made predictions about the coming spring and what laid ahead for his favourite football team, the Saskatchewan Roughriders.
Woody was rescued by Richard and Shanno Burton in 2014, when they reportedly spotted a “tiny ball of fluff” on the side of the road near their home in Whelan Bay, in northern Saskatchewan.
The couple took Woody home and began caring for him, and the rest is history.
FORECASTING BY PIG SPLEEN – JEFF WOODWARD
Not all unorthodox forecasts involve living animals, according to Jeff Woodward.
Woodward inherited the odd skill from his uncle, Gus Wickstrom, a legendary reader of pig spleens from Tompkins, Sask.
Wickstrom passed away in 2007, after using his swine related forecasting tactics for over 40 years.
Since then, Woodward has been providing annual forecasts using Gus’s signature technique.
CTV News Regina caught up with Woodward in 2011, where he explained his unusual methods of predicting the weather.
“It wasn’t one of my career ambitions, no. But it seems like a natural fit now,” he chuckled while speaking CTV’s Dan McIntosh.
As it turns out, the practice has its roots amongst Swedish immigrants to the Canadian prairies. The logic of the process is that as pigs prepare for winter, they will accumulate fat on their spleens.
“In general, the fatty deposits mean snow or precipitation,” Woodward explained.
“With my uncle, people would phone him and say ‘I’m getting married on such and such a day, what’s the weather going to be like?’ And he’d say windy or cloudy or whatever. He’d be really accurate.”
While Woodward admitted he’s not particularly skilled, he did claim to beat out several forecasters and accurately predicted Saskatchewan’s major flooding in 2010.
THE GROUNDHOG: A SYMBOL OF HOPE
The question remains; does the spectacle of the groundhog predict the coming seasons?
According to Peter Geiger, an editor of the Farmers’ Almanac, the celebration of the groundhog every February achieves its intended purpose, which isn’t forecasting per say.
“During the darkest times of the year … I think there's always hope and I think if anything, the groundhog offers hope for an early spring,” Geiger told CTV News.
“I also think it's more of a statement, ‘God is winter going to end sooner or later?’ That's what people really want to know and I think that's kind of a charming tradition.”
For his weather forecasting needs, Geiger said he’ll put his trust in the Almanac’s work.
Marking its 206th year of operation in 2023, the Farmers’ Almanac claims to accurately forecast within the 80 per cent range.
The publication’s methods are based off sunspot activity and a central mathematical formula, according to Geiger.
“So in our case, our first editor, his name was David Young, and he was a mathematician, a calculator and an astronomer. So he put together a mathematical formula that is applied to sunspot activity, planet positions and the effects that we would have on the Earth. All of those plus the mathematical formula allows us to do our weather two years in advance,” he explained.
“And that seems to work very well for us.”
As for this year’s forecast, the Farmers’ Almanac is calling for a “lion-like” end to March with a wide variety of beligerent weather ranging from snow to heavy rain across western Canada.
Regina Top Stories
CTVNews.ca Top Stories
Biden is coming to Canada: Here's what we know about his visit
U.S. President Joe Biden is coming to Canada Thursday evening, kicking off his short but long-awaited official visit to Canada. Here's what CTV News has confirmed about what will be on the agenda, and what key players are saying about the upcoming visit.
What are the predictions for Canada's real estate market this spring?
The Canadian real estate market has been sluggish since last year, when prospective buyers started putting off plans to purchase homes as the Bank of Canada aggressively hiked interest rates eight consecutive times. But realtors see many edging toward a purchase once more.
Canada broke a population growth record in 2022: StatCan
Canada's population grew by more than one million over the course of one calendar year, breaking previous records, a new Statistics Canada report says.
5 planets will align in an arc across the night sky next week
Sky-gazers will be treated to a parade of planets near the end of month when Jupiter, Mercury, Venus, Uranus and Mars will appear together in the night sky.
Federal government allowing Ukrainians overseas to apply for free emergency visa until mid-July
The federal government will give Ukrainians until mid-July to apply for a free temporary visa to Canada under an emergency program brought in place last year following Russia's invasion of Ukraine.
Prince William visits troops in Poland on surprise trip
Prince William made an unannounced trip to Poland on Wednesday to thank British and Polish troops involved in providing support to Ukraine, before meeting refugees who have fled the conflict with Russia to hear of their experiences.
AP sources: Manhattan DA postpones Trump grand jury session
Manhattan prosecutors postponed a scheduled grand jury session Wednesday in the investigation into Donald Trump over hush money payments during his 2016 presidential campaign, at least temporarily slowing a decision on whether to charge the ex-president.
What made Beethoven sick? DNA from his hair offers clues
Nearly 200 years after Ludwig van Beethoven's death, researchers pulled DNA from strands of his hair, searching for clues about the health problems and hearing loss that plagued him.
Canada needs 300,000 new rental units to avoid gap quadrupling by 2026: report
Canada's rental housing shortage will quadruple to 120,000 units by 2026 without a significant boost in stock, Royal Bank of Canada said in a report Wednesday.
Here's what we could see in the 2023-24 provincial budget
The long awaited 2023-24 provincial budget will be unveiled in the Legislature on Wednesday afternoon, outlining the government’s taxation and spending plans for next year.
Sask. sees largest population increase in over a century
Saskatchewan experienced its largest population growth in more than a century last year.
Sask. doctor charged with unprofessional conduct after pleading guilty to harassing ex-girlfriend
A Nipawin doctor has been charged with unprofessional conduct after pleading guilty to criminally harassing his ex-girlfriend.
Manitoba's minimum wage is increasing
The minimum wage in Manitoba is increasing to $15.30 this October.
Major risk of flooding on Red River this spring, predicts Manitoba government
There is a major risk of flooding on the Red River this spring, according to Manitoba’s Hydrologic Forecast Centre
Winnipeg still waiting for opening date for Zellers
Fans of Zellers looking to shop locally at the revamped store in Winnipeg will have to keep waiting.
Why were there fireworks in Calgary last night?
Plenty of Calgarians were surprised to hear the sound of fireworks ringing through the city on Tuesday night.
Zellers food truck rolls into Calgary on Thursday as store reopens
The Calgary Zellers location opens to the public on Thursday and those visiting the nostalgic retailer will also be able to grab a bite from the Zellers Diner on Wheels.
'Drastic difference': Downtown Calgary CTrain platforms now have brighter lights
Calgary Transit has improved lighting at its downtown LRT platforms in an effort to make it safer for riders to use CTrains.
Memorial donuts being sold in support of slain Edmonton police officers
A Crossfield, Alta., bakery is creating something special in memory of Constables Brett Ryan and Travis Jordan, who were shot to death last week.
Police say body of woman found on path by Prospect Point Park storm pond
An investigation is underway following the discovery of a woman's body along a park pathway in Fort McMurray, Alta.
Oilers sign Swedish centre Carl Berglund to entry-level contract
The Edmonton Oilers have signed forward Carl Berglund to a two-year entry level contract.
Ontario to get rid of temporary paid sick days, lift some COVID measures in LTC homes
The Canadian Press has learned that Ontario will not extend its temporary paid sick day program.
Mystery surrounds Markham, Ont. woman who 'disappeared without a trace'
A Markham, Ont. woman who has been missing for nearly three weeks 'disappeared without a trace,' police say.
Michael Ford asked to rescind 'disturbing, offensive, and racist' comment about Toronto youth
Ontario Minister for Citizenship and Multiculturalism and MPP Michael Ford was called upon Wednesday to rescind a comment made about Toronto youth that some have called “disturbing, offensive, and racist.”
Sutcliffe not ruling out public funding for new Senators arena
As the sale of the Ottawa Senators heats up, the city's mayor isn't ruling out public funding for a new downtown arena for the team.
Here are the road closures to expect when U.S. President Biden visits Ottawa
The city of Ottawa has released its list of road closures for the presidential motorcade and visit, starting Thursday when Biden arrives and ending Friday night after his departure.
Ottawa Hospital says for-profit surgeries not impacting other procedures
The Ottawa Hospital says it's working with a group of surgeons providing for-profit orthopedic surgeries at the Riverside Campus on Saturdays to ensure there is "no impact on staffing" and cancer procedures at the hospital.
1 person sent to hospital after 2-vehicle crash in Langley
A two-vehicle crash in Langley late Tuesday sent at least one person to hospital.
Lifetime teaching ban for B.C. man convicted for 'inappropriate' contact with student
A middle school teacher from British Columbia has been banned from his profession for life after pleading guilty to assault for an incident involving a student.
Homicide team deployed to West Vancouver after man stabbed in apartment parkade
An altercation in a West Vancouver parking garage escalated to a deadly stabbing late Tuesday afternoon.
5 remain missing as rescuers continue search through wreckage of Old Montreal fire
The search for victims continues in Old Montreal Wednesday, nearly a week after a major fire left at least two dead and five missing. Rescuers are slowly but surely combing through the historic building, which contained multiple illegal Airbnb units at the time of the fire.
'Bricks versus bodies': Father agonizes over pace of recovery efforts in old Montreal fire
As the search for victims of a five-alarm fire in Old Montreal stretched into its fifth day on Tuesday, friends and family members are getting frustrated with the pace of the investigation and lack of answers.
WEATHER WARNING | Freezing rain warning in effect for Montreal
It may officially be spring, but wintery weather is hanging on. A Colorado low moving into Quebec is expected to bring light freezing rain this evening, after the evening rush hour
Caught on cam: Dramatic orca encounter at Victoria breakwater
A pair of orcas delighted onlookers at Victoria's Ogden Point breakwater on Wednesday.
Saanich police bust ring allegedly selling vape products at Greater Victoria schools
More than $100,000 worth of vaping products have been seized by Saanich police detectives who say the items were being marketed and sold at schools throughout B.C.'s capital region.
Vancouver Island goalie makes impressive NHL debut
A Vancouver Island goalie has been the talk of professional hockey after posting one of the best debuts in NHL history.
Transportation Safety Board report on sinking cites lax federal rules on stability
A Transportation Safety Board of Canada report has linked the fatal sinking of a Nova Scotia scallop dragger in 2020 to years of federal inaction on the imposition of stricter stability standards for fishing vessels.
Class to resume Wednesday at Halifax-area high school two days after stabbings
Students at a Halifax-area school where two staff members were stabbed Monday are set to return to class Wednesday afternoon.
Weather statements issued in the Maritimes ahead of snow Thursday
Environment Canada has issued special weather statements in the Maritimes ahead of a spring mix of snow and rain arriving Thursday.
Northern Ont. police find driver unconscious at the wheel, motor running
Ontario Provincial Police responding to a different call March 17 discovered a driver slumped over the wheel in a running parked car on Main Street in the Town of Thessalon.
Ontario's summer forecast has been revealed. What to expect from June to September
The Farmers' Almanac has released its 2023 summer forecast, and, according to the long-range forecaster, Ontario could be in for some 'hot and soggy' summer months.
Woman blows 4x legal alcohol limit after crashing into car in school parking lot
A Tottenham woman faces impaired driving charges for allegedly blowing four times over the legal limit after crashing into a vehicle in a school parking lot.
BREAKING | Ont.’s police watchdog investigating incident just outside Fergus
Ontario’s police watchdog is investigating an incident near Belwood Lake, a few kilometres northeast of Fergus, Ont.
Close call caught on video after driver runs stop sign in Guelph
Guelph police are looking for a driver who was captured on dash cam footage speeding through an intersection without braking at a stop sign.