Pennsylvania’s famous groundhog Punxsutawney Phil gave his annual prediction of how long winter will last.
Phil emerged from his lair for Groundhog Day in front of a crowd of thousands but didn’t see his shadow. According to legend, that’s a sign spring will come early this year.
If the groundhog sees his shadow on February 2 on Gobbler’s Knob, winter will allegedly last six more weeks.
The prediction is made during a ceremony overseen by a group called the Inner Circle. Members don top hats and tuxedos for the ceremony on Groundhog Day each year.
Bill Deeley, president of the Inner Circle, says that after “consulting” with Phil, he makes the call in deciphering what the world’s Punxsutawney Phil has to say about the weather.
Phil is known as the “seer of seers” and “sage of sages”. Organizers predicted about 20,000 people this weekend, a larger-than-normal crowd because Groundhog Day fell on a weekend.
Phil’s got company in the forecasting department. There’s Staten Island Chuck, in New York; General Beauregard Lee, in Atlanta; and Wiarton Willie, in Wiarton, Ontario, among others noted by the National Climactic Data Center “Groundhog Day” Web page.
“Punxsutawney can’t keep something this big to itself,” the Data Center said. “Other prognosticating rodents are popping up to claim a piece of the action.”
Phil is the original – and the best, Punxsutawney partisans insist.
The 1993 movie Groundhog Day starring Bill Murray brought even more notoriety to the Pennsylvania party. The record attendance was about 30,000 the year after the movie’s release, said Katie Donald, executive director of the Groundhog Club. About 13,000 attend if February 2 falls on a weekday.
Phil’s predictions, of course, are not always right on. Last year, for example, he told people to prepare for six more weeks of winter, a minority opinion among his groundhog brethren. The Northeast Regional Climate Center at Cornell University later listed that January to June as the warmest seven-month period since systematic records began being kept in 1895.