Expect an early spring, if Pennsylvania's groundhog is right

Sat Feb 2, 2013 5:28pm EST
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By Drew Singer

PUNXSUTAWNEY, Pennsylvania (Reuters) - Punxsutawney Phil, America's most famous groundhog, emerged from his burrow on Saturday to the glare of cameras and the cheers of thousands of spectators and offered his annual weather prognostication: An early spring is coming.

Each year thousands of fans from as far away as Australia and Russia attend the wildly popular event in this tiny western Pennsylvania town, depicted in the 1993 comedy "Groundhog Dog" starring Bill Murray and Andie MacDowell.

According to legend, if the rodent emerges from his hole and sees his shadow, six more weeks of freezing temperatures and snow are on the way.

This year, however, Phil did not see his shadow, meaning an early spring should be expected.

As temperatures hovered in the single-digits, the furry rodent was held aloft and relayed his prognostication to the Groundhog Club president who was dressed in a top hat and tuxedo.

"This is the most important weather prediction to be found anywhere on the globe," Pennsylvania Lieutenant Governor Jim Cawley told the crowd gathered hours before sunrise.

Festivities began in the early hours when shuttle buses carried fans from nearby parking lots and the community to Phil's home on Gobbler's Knob to await the big event. A few hours later, after a fireworks display, Phil made his appearance.

"It doesn't matter where you are from, if you get the Groundhog Day gene it is a pilgrimage you are going to take," said Bill Cooper, a retired banker and member of the inner circle of the Groundhog Club, a non-profit that perpetuates the legend of Punxsutawney Phil.   Continued...

Groundhog co-handler Ron Ploucha holds Punxsutawney Phil in front of a record crowd estimated at 35,000 after Phil's annual weather prediction on Gobbler's Knob in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, on the 127th Groundhog Day, February 2, 2013. Phil did not see his shadow signaling an early end to winter. REUTERS/Jason Cohn