Punxsutawney Phil predicts six more weeks of winter on Groundhog Day

Pennsylvania tradition is said to have its roots in a German legend

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The Independent US

For people in the storm-lashed north east of the US, there was more bad news on Monday as Punxsutawney Phil – perhaps the nation’s most famous weather forecaster – predicted there was to be six more weeks of winter.

"Forecasts abound on the Internet, but, I, Punxsutawney Phil am still your best bet,” the handlers of the rodent said on social media. “Yes, a shadow I see, you can start to Twitter, hash tag: Six more weeks of winter!”

The people Punxsutawney in Pennsylvania have for more than 100 years been cashing in on a legend, supposedly German, that suggests if the groundhog can see its shadow on February 2, winter will last another six weeks. If not, then spring comes early.

The handlers of the groundhog, the so-called Inner Circle, claim the animal communicates with them and they then pass on the prediction about the weather. Records suggest they are more often correct that not.

Over the years the town's Groundhog Day has become world famous, and tens of thousands of people will flock to Punxsutawney participate in it.

Much of that has to do with the success of the 1993 film Groundhog Day, starring Bill Murray as a brash TV weatherman who is dispatched to Punxsutawney to cover the annual festival. The film has developed a life of its own, with some using it as a religious parable about redemption and rebirth.

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The Associated Press reported that the forecast was delivered after a steady pre-dawn rain turned to snow as temperatures dropped to freezing.

They were forecast to keep dropping over much of the state, prompting the state Department of Transportation to lower the speed limit to 45 mph for many interstate highways which were already wet and expected to freeze or be covered with snow as the day wore on.

The rain kept some revelers away, with state police estimating the crowd at around 11,000, slightly smaller than in recent years when upward of 15,000 attended.

No mention was made of Sunday night's Super Bowl, unlike Groundhog Day 2009 — the last time the celebration occurred the morning after the big game — which was won by the nearby Pittsburgh Steelers that year.

Records going back to 1887 show Phil has now predicted more winter 102 times while forecasting an early spring just 17 times. There are no records for the remaining years.

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