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A hedgehog surrounded by people on Groundhog Day.

More Winter or Early Spring? Groundhog Day 2024

Earlier this morning America’s favorite varmint weatherman, Punxsutawney Phil (the “seer of seers, the prognosticator of prognosticators”) emerged at Gobbler’s Knob with welcome news:

“ … but what this weather did not provide, was a shadow, or reason to hide! Glad tidings on this Groundhog day, an early spring is on the way!” – Punxsutawney Phil, Feb 02, 2024 

It’s the first early spring Phil has predicted since 2020, but with this great news comes a small caveat: the digging season is starting early.

With the arrival of warmer weather, many homeowners are eager to start outdoor projects including landscaping, gardening, and home improvement endeavors that require digging or excavation. It’s crucial to be mindful of underground utilities such as gas, electric, water, and communication lines that may be buried on your property. Accidentally hitting a utility line while digging can be not only dangerous but also costly to repair and may cause service interruptions.

According to the Common Ground Alliance’s 2022 DIRT Report, damages since 2020 are on the rise and homeowners continue to be a large culprit of these accidental dig ins.

 So how can we stop feeling like Bill Murray from 1992’s Groundhog Day, where we are living the same day “over and over” and reverse these trends?  Here are three quick (and free!) steps we can take to protect underground assets.

1. Call Before You Dig

It’s essential to call 811 before starting any digging project. This nationwide number connects homeowners and contractors to their local one-call center, which notifies the appropriate utility companies of the intent to dig. Upon receiving a call, a utility locator comes out and marks the location of the underground lines within the designated digging area. It’s important to wait for all the buried utilities to be marked before beginning any digging activity.

2. Respect the Markings

After the markings are in place, it’s crucial to be mindful of these safety marking products when conducting your dig. These above-ground markers, such as marking flagsmarker posts, and surface markers, help maintain the visibility of the utility lines to help avoid accidental dig-ins to the utilities. Taking these precautions is not only the law in many areas, but it’s also a vital safety measure to protect yourself and others around you.

3. Spread the Word!

Share the safe digging message with friends, family, and neighbors! Awareness of 811 is growing, but we can always do more.  Just by even telling one person, you may have helped prevent a costly damage. The more individuals understand the significance of this proactive measure, the safer and more informed our communities become.

So, as we welcome an early spring in 2024, remember to enjoy the outdoors responsibly by calling 811 before you dig and using the proper safety marking products when working on projects that involve digging. This will help ensure the safety of your community and prevent potentially hazardous situations. Happy spring and “don’t forget your booties cause its cold out there!”