Punxsutawney Phil is overrated.
Early Tuesday, the country’s most famous groundhog emerged from his burrow, saw his shadow and predicted six more weeks of winter. The annual Groundhog Day prediction takes place on a hill called Gobbler’s Knob in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania — approximately 65 miles outside of Pittsburgh. This year’s festivities were closed to the public due to the coronavirus pandemic, but the announcement was live-streamed by the Pennsylvania Tourism Office.
Meanwhile, Las Vegans are expecting a high temperature of 69 degrees and a low of 49 degrees.
Groundhog Day doesn’t mean much to desert dwellers, but luckily we have our own measure of spring’s arrival: Mojave Max.
The Springs Preserve resident, like all desert tortoises, enters his burrow in the fall and begins brumation, the reptilian form of hibernation. He sleeps for four or five months and emerges when he feels conditions are right (longer daylight, temperatures).
Clark County calls the emergence of the desert tortoise “the preeminent indicator of spring-like weather in Southern Nevada and the west coast.”
Take that, Phil.
Groundhog Day marks the start of “Mojave Max Watch” and the chance for one elementary school student to win the county’s annual contest of guessing the tortoise’s emergence date.
The earliest date the tortoise has emerged was Feb. 14, in 2005. The latest was April 17, in 2012. Last year, Mojave Max emerged at 11:39 a.m. on April 1.
Last year, a fourth-grade student at Somerset Academy Sky Pointe won the competition.
Students can enter this year’s competition by visiting MojaveMax.com and clicking on “Emergence Contest.” The winning student will receive a laptop computer, outdoor gear and a year-long family pass to the Springs Preserve. The student’s teacher, classroom and school also win prizes.