CAPTION: “Punxsutawney Phil” the groundhog with his official “handlers,” the residents of Punxsutawney who care for him year-round. (Photo courtesy of the Punxsutawney Groundhog Club, Inc.)
It’s funny how a groundhog can make people think about being prepared for weather.
Here in Pennsylvania, where FEMA continues to partner with our Commonwealth and local partners on Hurricane Sandy recovery, a beloved American tradition will take place this weekend. On February 2, just a few minutes before 7:30 a.m., the world’s most famous groundhog, “Punxsutawney Phil,” will make his annual prognosis for spring.
The belief is that if it is sunny when Phil emerges, he will see his shadow and retreat back to his hay bale. Supposedly, winter will last for six more weeks. If it is cloudy and Phil does not see his shadow, spring will arrive sooner.
This will be Phil’s 127th celebrated appearance from the burrow where he lives at the peak of Gobbler’s Knob, a hilly patch of land located in the countryside about two miles east of Punxsutawney. Some believe that Phil is the same groundhog that has appeared there every year since fans made the first trek up the hill to watch for him in 1887. That would make Phil the world’s oldest groundhog.
Regardless of who subscribes to the legend of Phil, weather watchers around the globe look to him for his perennial prediction. Thousands of enthusiasts are expected to travel to Punxsutawney, where a variety of Groundhog Day activities are planned. Groundhog Day folklore reminds us to be ready for weather changes not just on Feb. 2, but all year. Whoever you turn to for your weather forecast, it is important to monitor upcoming changes closely.
Preparedness information is available online at www.Ready.gov. Ideas and reminders posted to the Ready website include:
- Learn how to send updates via text and Internet from your mobile phone to your contacts and social channels in case voice communications are not available;
- Store your important documents, such as personal and financial records, in a secure and remote area, or put them on a flash or jump drive that you can keep readily available so they can be accessed from anywhere; and
- Download the Emergency Family Readiness Plan to create an “Emergency Information Document.”
This year, Groundhog Day occurs at the end of two full weeks of Hurricane Sandy Public Assistance and Hazard Mitigation applicant briefings in Pennsylvania. At the briefings, applicants met with specialists from FEMA and the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency (PEMA) to determine which recovery expenses are eligible for reimbursement under the Public Assistance program.
To be eligible for federal Public Assistance, applicants must show that their project is required as a direct result of Hurricane Sandy during the period from October 26 to November 8, 2012. Public Assistance funding may cover costs incurred to return elements of the infrastructure as close to their pre-disaster condition as possible. Expenses may include costs for work such as debris removal and repair or replacement of damaged roads, bridges and other public components. Applicants typically include such organizations as school districts; volunteer fire fighter organizations; sewer authorities; emergency management offices; and regional police departments.
CAPTION: Middletown Township, Penn. -- FEMA Public Assistance Specialist Jim Teats (left); PEMA Public Assistance Specialist Rick Weiberg (center); and Middletown Township Fire Marshall Jim McGuire assess Hurricane Sandy damage in Dauphin County on Nov. 7, 2012. Photo by George Armstrong/FEMA
PEMA and FEMA have been partnering on Hurricane Sandy-related activity since October 29, which is when President Obama signed a major emergency declaration for the Commonwealth.
I look forward to sharing more information in the coming months as we continue to work on Hurricane Sandy recovery here in Pennsylvania.