SOUTHEASTERN NORTH CAROLINA (WECT) - "Punxsutawney Phil" may be the star of Groundhog Day, but Phil's exclusive "Inner Circle" members are important players, too. And when Punxsy Phil's handler, Punxsutawney schoolteacher Ron Ploucha, wants to escape the Pennsylvania winter and simulate an "early spring," he likes to visit his good friends and the green golf courses of sunny southeastern North Carolina.
WECT First Alert Chief Meteorologist Gannon Medwick recently spoke with Ploucha about his unique role in Groundhog Day.
"I've been part of the Inner Circle for close to twenty years," Ploucha reminisced. "In Punxsutawney, Groundhog Day is more than just Phil's forecast in the morning. We have events for days leading up to Groundhog Day. Good community stuff. And each member of the Inner Circle brings a different talent to enhance those events."
According to lore, if Phil emerges from his home and sees his shadow on Groundhog Day morning, winter will last for six more weeks... and if Phil does not see his shadow, springtime weather will arrive early. Ploucha acknowledged that Phil sees his shadow more often than not, but did not offer a prediction of what Phil might find this year.
"Whatever happens, happens. Groundhog Day is less about a forecast and more about fun! There are very serious things happening in our world, but Groundhog Day is not one of them."
And in kind, Ploucha concluded the interview with one simple and lighthearted message for southeastern North Carolina: "Happy Groundhog Day!"