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Punxsutawney Phil a Tough Act to Follow

Dan Stillman @ 12:05 AM

Today, as happens every year around this time, our country will get a glimpse into the future. Men, women and children across the land will watch intently as one of the most powerful figures in the free world tells us what to expect in the days and weeks to come. Indeed, by the time most of you read this post, Punxsutawney Phil will have emerged from his hole to predict whether winter will wind on for six more weeks, or wilt away into an early spring.

Tonight, President Bush gives the State of the Union address.

Ba-dum-bum ch!

Sorry ... couldn't resist. Sometimes life's coincidences are just too good to be true.

Phil, the president and Congress actually have an interesting connection as of late. You might remember that the prognosticating groundhog made headlines when he visited Washington in December to defend a $100,000 grant -- inserted by Rep. John Peterson (R-Pa) into the 2005 federal spending bill eventually signed by the president -- to fund the Punxsutawney Phil Weather Discovery Center. Some government watchdog groups have labeled the project as "pork," although syndicated columnist Froma Harrop doesn't take as harsh of a view.

While Phil will issue his forecast for the next six weeks early this morning, the craziness of Groundhog Day lasts well into the afternoon. Check out WeatherBug's Groundhog Day Blog 2005, direct from Punxsutawney, Pa.

Today and tonight's forecast: Clear skies and light winds overnight will drop this morning's lows into the low-to-mid 20s in town, mid-teens in the colder suburbs. Today, temps rebound nicely under bright sunshine and high pressure -- highs seasonal in the low-to-mid 40s. Tonight, low-to-mid 20s should do it for just about everyone, with high clouds from the system lurking to our south moving in toward daybreak.

Tomorrow and Friday: The models are now in agreement about the on-again, off-again, on-again -- now off-again storm system to our south. The latest track keeps it just south of the region, sparing the D.C. area from any significant precipitation -- this graphic and caption from Accuweather says it all. For now, we'll call tomorrow and Friday partly cloudy with highs in the low-to-mid 40s. However, the models have not fared well this winter, and the situation still bears watching ... stay tuned to CapitalWeather for updates.

State of the Weather

As the nation gets a preview tonight of the next four years of U.S. policy, I thought this might be a good time to look back at the last four years of Washington weather (for a recap of this past December and January, and a look forward to February, check out Matt's post from yesterday):

  • For the years 2001-2004, the average temperature at Reagan National Airport was 58.0 degrees, which matches exactly the long-term average of -- 58.0 degrees.

  • For the years 2001-2004, the average amount of precipitation per year was 41.9 inches, a tad over the long-term average of 39.4 inches per year.

  • And finally, since President Bush took office on the afternoon of January 20, 2001, Reagan National has received 66.7 inches of snow. That comes out to an average of about 16.6 inches per year, which matches exactly the airport's long-term average of -- 16.6 inches per year.
What have we learned from this little exercise? Not much, besides confirming that the weather truly does average out over time ... Makes you wonder what kind of useless research I might present here next week.

Picture courtesy of

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