Feb 2, 2024 - News

Move over, Phil: Meet Beau, the South's groundhog

General Beauregard Lee looks at his sign while preparing for Groundhog Day in 1995. Lee, the South's "official weather prognosticator," lived at Yellow River Game Ranch in Gwinnett County, Ga.

The South only recognizes one groundhog forecaster around here. Photo: Steve Deal/Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Feb. 2 is Groundhog Day, which means people nationwide are visiting rodents for their weather predictions.

Driving the news: We asked Axios Atlanta readers to pick the best prognosticator between two groundhogs: Pennsylvania's Punxsutawney Phil or Georgia's own Gen. Beauregard "Beau" Lee.

  • 67.2% picked Beau.
  • Overall, 279 of you responded to the poll. We guess y'all rely on human meteorologists.

How it works: Thousands of visitors annually trek to western Pennsylvania on Feb. 2 to witness Punxsutawney Phil step out of his burrow.

  • If he sees his shadow: six more weeks of winter.
  • No shadow: early spring.

Zoom in: Phil may be America's most popular groundhog, but in Georgia, Beau calls the shots.

  • Officials at the Dauset Trails Nature Center in Jackson will pull Beau out of his miniature mansion to announce if he saw his shadow at 7:30am.
  • Beau's ancestors began their forecasting in 1981, according to Fox 5 Atlanta.
  • Beau previously lived at Gwinnett County's Yellow River Wildlife Sanctuary, according to the AJC.
  • The AJC also reports Beau has honorary doctorates in "Weather Prognostication" from the University of Georgia and "Southern Groundhogology" from Georgia State University.

Yes, but: Beau's namesake is ... complicated?

  • Beau's name comes from two Confederates: Gen. Robert E. Lee and Gen. P.G.T. Beauregard.

Our thought bubble: As we reckon with our history, we wonder if this name will change with the season.

The big picture: America hilariously has several famous furry forecasters.

  • Jimmy in Sun Prairie, Wisconsin, bit then-Mayor Jonathan Freund in 2015.
  • Woodstock, Chicago's Willie lives where Bill Murray filmed the movie "Groundhog Day."
  • Buckeye Chuck was a stuffed groundhog last year thanks to PETA, but Ohio recently tapped a live groundhog.

Some towns have groundhog mascots, but perhaps none like Polk County Paula. Before her prediction, she gives her fans beer at the High Life Lounge in Des Moines, Iowa.

Elsewhere, some towns don't even use groundhogs for forecasting. New Orleans has a young black bear named Sassafras.

What's next: Beau and Phil will leave their respective digs around 7:30am on Friday. Beau's event will be livestreamed on Fox5 Atlanta. Watch Phil's forecasting at WTAJ-TV.

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