Groundhog’s Day at Brookfield Zoo pushed up by winter storm

The great 2011 storm that has yet to happen can take credit for a bit of history. For just the second time in its 76-year history, the Brookfield Zoo will be closed Wednesday.

The zoo’s planned Groundhog’s Day event, in which Tumbleweed, the zoo’s resident groundhog, was to forecast the end of winter for zoo guests, took place a day early.

Tumbleweed did not see her shadow, which, according to legend, means an early spring – a touch of irony that only enlivened the festivities.

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Zoo spokeswoman Sondra Katzen said a small crew of workers will stay overnight to care for animals, and efforts will also be directed toward removing snow from roads inside the zoo and from the north and south parking lots.

“Basically it’s for the safety of staff as well as the animals,” Katzen said of the decision to close the zoo Wednesday. “It’ll be a skeleton crew in to care for the animals and also personnel to address core functions like snow removal.”

The only other time Brookfield Zoo closed its doors was in September 2008, when extensive flooding due to record rainfall shut its doors. The storm flooded the basements of several buildings and filled moats surrounding outdoor animal yards on the east end of the park.

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