Sunday, February 03, 2008

No shadows to be seen on Groundhog Day, but there were some kites on Lake Monona

Monona Terrace with Kites and Snow

Peter Patau Photos

Groundhog Day has always puzzled me somewhat. Every year we attend the auguries of the various regional rodent weather wizards with great fanfare, but the alternative outcomes seem suspiciously similar: No shadow = early spring. Shadow = 6 more weeks of winter, which this year would be March 15, i.e., an early spring. What's the difference?

Hairsplitting aside, there was not enough sun to cast any shadows for Madison area groundhogs. Sun Prairie's renowned Jimmy the Groundhog predictably forecast an early spring -- which, as Madison heads for a record snowfall accumulation, isn't necessarily all that reassuring, since we get some of our heaviest snowfalls in the spring.

Not only could you not see any shadows, but there were times Saturday afternoon that you could hardly see anything at all, as our light but surprisingly frisky snow sometimes approached whiteout conditions, especially on Lake Monona, which was already fairly white to begin with. The weather didn't bother this wedding party, which went out on the ice to frolic in the snow and have their pictures taken (click on photo to enlarge in Flickr).

Nor did it deter a handfull of intrepid kite fliers who labored valiantly to launch their brightly colored wind-powered craft, weighed down as they were by the wet, driving snow. The kiters were invited by Kites on Ice founder Craig Wilson (the guy with the kite camera), who put together an impromptu 10th-anniversary reunion on Lake Monona in conjunction with the Madison Winter Festival. Unlike the earlier Kites on Ice events, which drew thousands of spectators and hundreds of kite enthusiasts, this event was mainly for the participants. The Winter Festival crowds were up at the Capitol Square for a variety of events, including Nordic skiing around the Capitol. Few ventured down to Lake Monona, where the kite enthusiasts were pretty much alone with themselves, their aerial epiphanies and the swirling snow.

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