Phil the groundhog: six more weeks of winter

Tue Feb 2, 2010 12:08pm EST
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By Jon Hurdle

PUNXSUTAWNEY, Pennsylvania (Reuters) - An American groundhog delivered his annual weather prediction on Tuesday, declaring that there will be six more weeks of winter after seeing his shadow.

Dubbed "Punxsutawney Phil," the rodent made his forecast in front of about 12,000 people who came from as far as Chile and the Netherlands to see the 124-year-old tradition in 18 degree Fahrenheit (-8 degrees Celsius) temperatures.

Phil was lifted from his cage in a stump at dawn to the cheers of the waiting crowd, many of whom were dressed in groundhog hats and other paraphernalia.

Bill Deeley, president of the Punxsutawney Inner Circle organizers -- and reputedly the only person in the world who can speak "groundhogese" -- declared that Phil had "seen his shadow" as he has about 90 percent of the time.

For groundhog lovers who were unwilling to spend a night in the cold organizers of the event for the first time this year sent the text of the prognostication to people's cell phones.

If Phil does not see his shadow when he emerges from his burrow, which is actually a box set into a tree stump near the western Pennsylvania town of Punxsutawney, spring is said to be just around the corner.

But a high-profile rival delivered a different prediction on Tuesday with local media reporting that New York City's "Staten Island Chuck" did not see his shadow.

Animal rights group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) had criticized the event for traumatizing the groundhog and said Phil should be replaced with a robotic rodent.   Continued...

<p>Famed weather prognosticating groundhog Punxsutawney Phil makes his annual prediction while being held by Co-Handler Ben Hughes on Gobbler's Knob in Punxsutawney, February 2, 2010. Phil saw his shadow, predicting six more weeks of winter. REUTERS/Jason Cohn</p>