Groundhog Phil braved freezing temperatures and overcast skies in Punxsutawney, Pa., to predict the weather. The famous rodent did not see his shadow, though, and he unknowingly forecast an early spring. While Phil’s prognosis is certainly a relief to anyone hoping for winter’s end, the good news is tempered by meteorologists, who are skeptical.
Thousands of people were on hand in the small Pennsylvania town of Punxsutawney to see what Phil predicted. Some came dressed in top hats and tuxedos, while others donned heavy coats to fight the cold. Crowds appear in Punxsutawney each year on Feb. 2 to view the ritual; record attendance in Punxsutawney was roughly 30,000 people in 1994, the year after the Bill Murray movie “Groundhog Day” was released.
Legend has it that if the groundhog sees his shadow on Feb. 2, winter will last for six more weeks; if not, it means that spring is just around the corner. The groundhog's prediction is overseen by a group called the Inner Circle, who “consult” with Phil to determine his prediction, the New York Daily News reported.
“And so ye faithful, there is no shadow to see, an early spring for you and me,” shouted Bob Roberts, one of Phil’s handlers.
The tradition began in 1887, and since then Phil (and his ancestors) have only predicted an early spring 16 times, whereas he saw his shadow 99 times; records are missing for nine years. There are at least six other groundhogs throughout North America, but the Phil-faithful swear he is the one true groundhog for Groundhog Day.
While snow is expected in the coming weeks, meteorologists at AccuWeather.com said Phil’s 2013 prediction could ring true.
“A couple of winter storms may impact the Northeast during February and March,” said one meteorologist. “The potential exists for snow along the I-95 corridor from Washington D.C., to New York City and Boston … Superstition has it that fair weather [at this midpoint] was seen as forbearance of a stormy and cold second half to winter.”