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Walking through winter, with a little support

This Friday, Feb. 2, is Groundhog Day. Now that might not sound especially exciting to some, but for others hoping winter is on its way out, it holds promise. 

Each year, on Feb. 2, we wait and watch as Punxsutawney Phil descends on Punxsutawney, Pa., to look for his shadow. The custom began when German-speaking immigrants moved to Pennsylvania in the 18th and 19th centuries. According to local lore, if he sees it, it means we can expect six more weeks of winter. If he doesn’t, warmer temperatures and the arrival of spring aren’t far behind.

Phil the groundhog (of which there have been many) has  been forecasting since 1887, when he predicted the weather for the whole of the country — not easy considering how variable the weather is in the different regions of the U.S. Nonetheless, Punxsutawney Phil gets it right about 40 percent of the time.

With all of the wacky weather we’ve been having lately: below freezing temperatures and arctic wind chills, ice, snow, rain and flooding, followed by mild temperatures in the 50s, it’s no wonder we’re all waiting for Phil to make his prediction.

And while we contemplate the wonders of the weather, we might also take a moment to think about our communities, and how they provide for us in the winter months. 

Our highway departments plow and shovel snow to make for easier and safer travel. They are bound by the limits of budget and manpower, but they do their best to ensure drivers’ safety — and for that we would like to say a hearty thanks.

We couldn’t get by without our emergency services and the volunteers who man them. Local fire companies and rescue squads help keep our communities safe and protected all year long — especially important when it’s cold and frigid outside.

Also important are our area food pantries, which provide an incredible service to residents in need. They ensure that those who struggle financially can still count on nourishing food for their families. And to those volunteers who help run the shelters, thank you. Your service is appreciated by many, as is your kindness.

We are also grateful to local warming shelters, helpful when there are power outages, especially for those who are elderly or without a generator.

And, of course, what good is getting sentimental if we don’t take a moment to thank our families, friends and neighbors who keep an eye out for our wellness and safety, and who check up on loved ones who might otherwise be alone. Having such people in our lives makes it so much easier, and more pleasant, when trying to make it through another winter — however unpredictable it may be. It’s nice to know there are some things we can always depend on, regardless of what time of year it is. This list is but an example.