Geography is such that driving north out of Harford County will put you in the Appalachian Mountains of Pennsylvania in a matter of a little more than an hour and a half. The change in latitude isn't all that much, but elevation makes a difference, and the effect on the weather is substantial, especially at this time of year.
Punxsutawney, Pa., may be a solid five or so hours from Harford County by car, but anyone who has ever spent a winter weekend anywhere in the mountains of the Keystone State can get an idea of how important it becomes to predict when the weather will break. For that matter, the logic behind turning to a groundhog for such meteorological speculation really can start to make sense when the nearest movie theater is in the next county and the best restaurants are closed until the tourists return.
A tradition that has all the hallmarks of something spawned by cabin fever came and went over the past weekend with little fanfare in Harford County or anywhere else in the Baltimore area. A different kind of fever, whose symptoms include wearing purple, masked the effects of the usual winter doldrums.
With icy weather in the air, and lingering in the forecast from the National Weather Service, however, a peek back at groundhog prognosticating is something of a welcome diversion. The weather service predicts ice, cold rain and maybe snow, interspersed with wind and high temperatures below freezing.
The groundhog, however, says spring is near, which is a much warmer thought.