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      Chehaw meerkat predicts early spring for Southwest GA

      Asante the Meerkat

      Today is Groundhog Day but Southwest Georgians no longer have to rely on hairy creatures from out of town to predict their weather.

      It's been a rough winter for much of the nation, including Southwest Georgia. So it's no surprise that so many were elated that groundhogs like Punxsutawney Phil and General Beauregard Lee predicted early ends to all the winter weariness. But what about Southwest Georgians looking for a local forecast?

      "Here at Chehaw, we take a slightly different spin," said Kevin Hils. "We are actually doing our prognostication with our meerkats."

      Asante the Meerkat, to be exact, with a resume worthy of any weatherman. "He's the most curious one of the group and he tends to like to be the one that likes to get up and get things started," said Hils.

      It wasn't long before Asante scampered into the light and scaled his mountain. "There is no shadow officially at Chehaw, which means spring is coming soon," exulted Hils.

      Whether or not you put much stock in Asante's prediction, an early spring or a late winter can have a significant effect on the environment. And that's especially important to farmers.

      "It's a huge decision as to when to plant a crop," said Ben Kirkland of Chehaw.

      An early spring often means early crop growth but if cold temperatures make a surprise comeback . . .

      "That young, tender plant coming up, a late freeze comes in, it kills it," said Kirkland. "Now, they've wasted all their man hours, their diesel fuel, the seed crop they've got to replant."

      But for now, it's hard to imagine there's anything wrong with warmer weather.

      "I think we're excited," said Hils.

      Are you excited about the possibility of an early spring?

      Original:

      Georgia's famed groundhog, Gen. Beauregard Lee, is predicting an early spring.

      Early Wednesday morning, the groundhog did not see his shadow as he braved soggy, 44-degree weather at his home at the Yellow River Game Ranch in Lilburn.

      Hundreds of spectators erupted in cheers at the groundhog, who made the prediction at 7:41 a.m.

      Legend has it that if a groundhog sees his shadow early on Feb. 2, six more weeks of winter can be expected.

      His Pennsylvania counterpart, Punxsutawney Phil, also failed to see his shadow â" welcome news for winter-weary Americans.

      Do you think there is any truth behind the groundhog seeing it's shadow and the length of winter?

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