U.S. groundhog Punxsutawney Phil predicts early spring
By Alan Freed
PUNXSUTAWNEY, Pa. (Reuters) - Punxsutawney Phil, the Pennsylvania groundhog renowned for his ability to forecast the onset of spring, did not see his shadow after emerging from his burrow on Tuesday morning, predicting an early spring.
Phil's prediction came at about 7:25 a.m. and was met with cheers from a crowd of thousands who participated under a clear sky and 21-degree Fahrenheit (-6.1 Celsius) temperatures in the folk tradition that has been embraced by winter-weary Americans for more than a century.
According to legend, if Phil sees his shadow on Groundhog Day, Feb. 2, the cold weather will not loosen its grip on North America for six weeks. But if the morning is cloudy and no shadow appears, spring-like weather is supposedly around the corner.
The event, which typically brings out 30,000 revelers to the small, west-central Pennsylvania town, has become a television staple at the beginning of one of the coldest months of the year in the U.S. Northeast. In addition to the celebrated rodent, the pageant features an entourage of city elders in old-fashioned dress and top hats, presiding over the festivities.
The organizer, the Punxsutawney Groundhog Club, is touting the 2016 event as "Phil's 130th prognostication," although technically it is not the same groundhog every year but one picked to represent the character.
Club spokeswoman Katie Donald said 1886 was the first year that the club trekked to Gobbler’s Knob in Punxsutawney and the groundhog delivered a weather forecast. Media coverage of the event started the following year, she said.
"We go by the first trek, 1886," Donald said.
The event's website, Groundhog.org, notes that "groundhogs are one of the few animals that really hibernate. Hibernation is not just a deep sleep. It is actually a deep coma." Continued...