Constable: Longing to move on from groundhog and graupel

  • On Feb. 2, the groundhog Woodstock Willie, held by handler Mark Szafarn, predicted an early spring, and then allowed Woodstock Mayor Mike Turner to proclaim his woefully inaccurate prognostication to a cheering crowd.

    On Feb. 2, the groundhog Woodstock Willie, held by handler Mark Szafarn, predicted an early spring, and then allowed Woodstock Mayor Mike Turner to proclaim his woefully inaccurate prognostication to a cheering crowd. Gregory Shaver/Shaw Media

  • Considering the way spring has been dragging its feet the last couple of months, a prediction of temperatures near 80 on Saturday might have us all thinking that summer has arrived.

    Considering the way spring has been dragging its feet the last couple of months, a prediction of temperatures near 80 on Saturday might have us all thinking that summer has arrived. Mark Welsh/mwelsh@dailyherald

 
 
Posted4/19/2022 5:20 AM

Way back on Feb. 2, Woodstock Willie, the suburbs' prognosticating groundhog, emerged from his tree stump burrow in near-freezing temperatures to forecast an early spring instead of six more weeks of winter.

Then he caught a flight to Cancun, where he goes by the alias Woodchuck Willie and predicts how much wood he could chuck if he actually could chuck wood.

 

Eleven weeks after the rodent's early spring proclamation, spring weather has yet to set up shop in the suburbs. Some of us woke Monday to a snowy white covering on patio furniture to start our week.

Back on March 21, when the temperatures shot into the 70s, I almost put our snow shovel and ice melt back into storage in the garage and brought out the patio table umbrella. Almost.

My wife and I married on a March day in 1988 with temperatures hovering between the low 40s and high 30s, winds whipping and raindrops flirting with snowflakes. On our anniversary, we were wearing shorts and sunscreen, enjoying temperatures in the high 70s.

A friend who lived in Long Beach, California, called to say she had a job interview in Chicago in five weeks and wanted to know what clothes to pack. How was I to know that she'd see snowflakes on May 1 and high-tail it back to California?

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According to the Iowa State University weather station in Schaumburg, we've had one day this month where our high temperature nudged above 70, and eight times when our low has dropped to freezing or below.

Spring remains elusive and mysterious. And a bit educational. Monday forces me to learn the word graupel, which is what happens when supercooled water droplets freeze on falling snowflakes, forming small balls of crisp, opaque rime.

With May just a dozen days away, graupel should be used only by poolside bartenders asking if we want our margarita straight up or over graupel.

I drive by a soggy playground where kids in coats are happy to wear face masks to protect against the cold, if not as a shield against whatever generation of the coronavirus is threatening our way of life today.

Having played baseball as a teen on cold and wet spring days, my hands can still feel the sting from a cold bat hitting a ball. Apparently colder temperatures keep bats from expanding, which causes more vibrations in a smaller area, and vibrations can sting.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Professional ballplayers seem to handle "bees in the bat" better than fans do the "hawk," the bone-chilling winds blowing off Lake Michigan and into the Frozen Confines of Wrigley Field.

But weather forecasts are calling for comfortable spring weather to show up on Thursday, when temperatures are expected to soar into the 60s. Some are predicting that Saturday will have temperatures knocking on 80's door. We haven't see temperatures hit 80 since September.

Of course, after the weekend, we're expected to settle back into the 50s and 40s as we roll into May. At least there is no snow in the forecast. And we've got another nine months until Woodstock Willie makes his next spring prediction.

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