Winter folklore and springtime urban legends


Punxsutawney Phil did not see his shadow on Feb. 2, so in modern American folklore, that means we will have an early spring.

However, Punxsutawney Phil lives in Pennsylvania. And as a Coloradan, I questioned his accuracy and turned to Flatiron Freddy for a closer-to-home prediction. The City of Boulder Open Space & Mountain Parks posted on its Facebook page on Feb. 2 that this marmot did see his shadow, thus predicting six more weeks of winter.

So which do we believe — the groundhog in Pennsylvania that has been seeking out his shadow each Groundhog’s Day for 124 years, or the local groundhog, which is likely more in tune to our unique, unpredictable Colorado weather.

Most Coloradans will tell you that March is our snowiest month. Afterall, it was March 14 last year when we experienced the bomb cyclone and about 7 inches of snow fell in Denver during a 24-hour period. Those who have lived in Colorado for a while will remember the March 2003 blizzard when more than two feet of snow — 31.8 inches according to — fell in Denver between March 17-19. And 20 years prior, on March 5-6, a storm brought 18.7 inches of snow to the city.

For those who prefer even more data, The Weather Channel’s website states that March is indeed Denver’s snowiest month, averaging just less than a foot of snowfall throughout the month.

But on the other hand, we Coloradans boast 300 days of sunshine. Surely at least some of the 31 days in March contribute to that, considering the spring equinox in the northern hemisphere happens sometime between March 19-21 each year.

Still, some say that Colorado’s 300 days of sunshine is an urban legend among locals, noting the the statement’s inacurracy stems from the fact that some of those days only see a couple hours of full sun.

No matter that it’s not scientifically proven, I will continue to brag on this state’s amount of sunshine. There’s nothing like waking up to the sun shining through my window following a prior day’s snowstorm. On those days, that fresh blanket of snow seems to make the sun shine that much brighter. And it’s fun to see people getting out to enjoy the sunny day — carefully avoiding slush puddles during a jog in the park or using a winter coat as a seat cover to lunch on a venue’s outdoor patio.

But there is also something to be said about the sense of togetherness that accompanies a snowstorm. I believe the “we’re all in this together” mentality is inherently in every Coloradan during snowstorms. It’s not uncommon for coworkers who own four-wheel drive vehicles to offer their colleagues a carpool to work, or to see an able-bodied teen spend afterschool hours shoveling snow for his or her senior-aged neighbors.

I even got to help two people while out-and-about covering stories in February. The first was providing a jump to a person whose car had a dead battery, a common wintertime nuisance.

Back in November, my dad gave me a box of sand to store in my car after I got stuck visiting with my family in Bailey. I’ve been driving around with it ever since, which brings me to the second time I was able to lend a hand.

A woman was blocking traffic on a small side street — her tires spinning out, stuck on a sheet of ice — while a man, presumably a stranger to her, was pushing her vehicle from behind with all his might. Since I was already stopped and watching all this happen, I got out of my car and offered them some sand. The man scooped a handful of it, methodically spread it around the tires of the woman’s car and with one final push, moments later, she was on her way, profusely thanking us and waving as she drove off.

I’m not sure about those groundhogs — Mother Nature is probably the only one who can accurately predict what’s to come in Denver this spring.

I might pay attention to Punxsutawney Phil and get out my flipflops on March 19 — the official first day of spring this year — just in case there’s an above-average high temperature of 65 or 70 degrees one day and I get to slip them on to take pictures in Cheesman Park.

But per Flatiron Freddy’s prediction, those flipflops will certainly be going in the backseat of my car, next to that box of sand and my ice scraper, ready for use during the next day’s springtime snowstorm.


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