It doesn’t look good. Groundhog Day is coming (February 2, 2019), and for two months I’ve been trying to schedule a visit to Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, with the hope of finding out why the groundhog who lives there is such a bad weather forecaster. But taking a broader view, maybe that is the wrong question. That’s like asking why the dog is a lousy dentist or why the parrot is a horrible accountant. The answer is obvious; they are in over their heads at their chosen profession. I mean we all know people like this; somehow they ended up doing a job they really aren’t qualified to do.

Let’s look at the numbers. Depending on your data set, Groundhog Phil has a 39 to 47 percent accuracy rate. Let’s give him extra credit for getting up early and round that off to 50 percent. Considering that he has only one question to answer — if the winter will be short or not — a coin toss would produce the same level of accuracy. Without the extra credit, a coin toss gives more accurate weather predictions.

Maybe the right question to ask is why people even care what a Pennsylvania woodchuck thinks about the weather. I suppose if you had a dog who was a dentist, people would line up to see him operate no matter how ineptly. So, basically, people must be coming to witness this incredible sight.

Maybe what we should be asking is why a group of Pennsylvanians think their local whistlepig (yet another name for a groundhog) can make long-term weather predictions. However, if you study their meteorological quackery, the groundhog doesn’t say or do anything; suspiciously his handlers do all the talking.

Maybe what we really should be asking is what exactly have the people in Punxsutawney been drinking that makes them believe they have a woodchuck with a master’s in meteorology? And if we find what they’ve been drinking, it logically leads to the question, “Where can we get some of what they’re having?”

The first Groundhog Day occurred on February 2, 1887, in, of all places, Punxsutawney. It was invented by Clymer H. Freas, the editor of the local Punxsutawney Spirit. He interested local businessmen who were members of the groundhog club and failing in their promotion of the groundhog as a game animal for food. It logically follows that if people won’t eat woodchuck, they can at least accept them as long-range weather forecasters.

Punxsutawney Phil has been giving predictions for over 120 years, and yet the life expectancy of a typical groundhog is around 10 years. Someone has to get down there to follow the money. And what about the spelling of Punxsutawney? Someone has to go check that out, too.

There are many questions that remain to be answered. So, why am I not barreling toward Pennsylvania to answer all these questions? Because the masses of early-bird planners have reserved every room in the region. I wanted to take my wife and see the spectacle for myself, but unless you reserve early — say a year early — there just aren’t any places to stay in Punxsutawney.

As a matter of fact, two months before Groundhog Day there was not a room to be had within 35 miles of Pucsut … Punksoton … Punxsotony … well, you get the picture. The community is maxed out lodging-wise, and, no, my winter camping days are behind me now so don’t even go there.

The last time we went to an event where the local lodging was sold out, I booked a hotel 130 miles away. I was told in no uncertain terms to never do that again. Even 35 miles is a long way after a full day of festivities, but it’s much, much longer when 10,000 other people are also trying to drive to their out-of-town destinations — and that’s in the summer.

In 2018 Phil predicted six more weeks of winter. After a brutal six weeks, the winter weather continued, so the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office issued an arrest warrant for deception. And yet the critter is still at large. I will get to the bottom of this. If not this year then the next.

Finally, if a small community can get so much mileage out of a fat squirrel, how would we get in on that kind of action? But I know what you’re thinking; the biggest question is still exactly what are they drinking? I’ll keep you posted.