Freddie isn't quite ready for spring. / Photo by Monica Zalaznik

Famous, four-legged meteorologist sides with Phil as crowd flocks to catch a glimpse of him

BUCKHANNON – Upshur County’s favorite furry meteorologist has spoken, and not everyone loves his forecast.  

French Creek Freddie predicted we will have six more weeks of winter as he emerged from his den at the West Virginia Wildlife Center Wednesday for the annual Groundhog Day celebration.

French Creek Freddie has been predicting the weather for over 40 years and made his first prediction in 1978. Forty-four years later, the Upshur County community gathered at the Wildlife Center to witness Freddie emerge.

According to legend, if the marmot sees his shadow like he did Wednesday morning, that sighting signifies six more weeks of winter. Conversely, if he doesn’t see his shadow, an early spring is on the way.

Mayor Robbie Skinner, who attended the Feb. 2 event, said he hopes Freddie is mistaken this year.

“I think we were all hoping for an early spring, but there’s always a margin of error, so hopefully he’s just a little bit wrong with his prediction,” Skinner said. “It’s been a harsh winter so far – the past few have not been too harsh or too severe – but we’ll take what we’re handed, and I just appreciate everybody coming out today.”

It was a warmer Groundhog Day, so Skinner said it was ironic that Freddie, who, like his Pennsylvania-dwelling cousin Punxsutawney Phil, predicted a long winter.

“We had a great crowd and a beautiful day,” the mayor said. “It’s ironic that Freddie saw his shadow on such a beautiful, spring-like day. It’s a great event, and it seems to grow every year; they do a great job at the wildlife center.

“We’re very fortunate to have the wildlife center anchored in Upshur County,” Skinner added. “It’s a hidden gem, and it’s right in our backyard, so I hope folks that live in our community take full advantage of this facility because you can see things here that you can’t see anywhere else.”

Trevor Moore, West Virginia Wildlife Center biologist, said he was happy to see such a big crowd at the event this year.

“This is really exciting for me because this is my first year of doing a great big celebration. Last year we did a much more private event,” Moore said. “It was very low-key, so it’s nice to see so many people wanting to meet Freddie.”

He said Freddie has about a 40 percent accuracy rate, but his prediction last year was spot on.

“He predicted an early spring last year, and in case you’re wondering, in February, the average was 36 (degrees), and then in March, the average was 58 with seven of those days above 70 degrees,” Moore said. “That sounds like an early spring to me.”

He said some groundhogs appear to be more accurate than others.

Wildlife aide Erica Flanigan poses for a photo with French Creek Freddie’s mascot Wednesday at the West Virginia Wildlife Center. / Photo by Monica Zalaznik

“I’m sorry to the meteorologists here, but depending on your view of meteorologists, you may prefer the groundhog’s prediction to the meteorologists’,” Moore said. “I did hear there was a Staten Island groundhog that was right about 80 percent of the time, and so maybe we can send a friend over there for some tips from him so we can get a little bit more accurate.”

While Phil and Freddie both saw more winter in everyone’s future, the Staten Island, New York-based rodent Moore referenced, Charles G. Hogg, also known as Staten Island Chuck, disagreed, saying spring would come early. This year marks the first time since 2019 that French Creek Freddie has insisted more winter is looming. In both 2020 and 2021, Freddie’s forecast indicated warmer weather was on the way.

Moore took a moment on Freddie’s big day to remind residents and visitors that the West Virginia Wildlife Center is open most days of the year. Currently, they do not charge admission and will not resume charging admission until April.

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