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Punxsutawney Phil predicts six more weeks of winter

PUNXSUTAWNEY, PENNSYLVANIA (AP) – There will be six more weeks of winter, Punxsutawney Phil predicted as he emerged from his burrow to perform his Groundhog Day duties.

Thousands of people from around the United States (US) and other countries gathered at Gobbler’s Knob as members of Punxsutawney Phil’s ‘inner circle’ summoned him from his tree stump at dawn to learn if he had seen his shadow, a message they said Phil communicated in ‘groundhogese’. After Phil’s prediction was announced, the crowd repeatedly chanted, “Six more weeks!”

According to folklore, spring would come early if he didn’t see it.

The event took place virtually last year because of the coronavirus pandemic, depriving the community, which is about 105 kilometres northeast of Pittsburgh, of a boost from tourists.

It was streamed live and seen by over 15,000 viewers worldwide at one point. About 150 cardboard cutouts of fans were there to “watch”.

Groundhog Club handler AJ Dereume holds Punxsutawney Phil, the weather prognosticating groundhog. PHOTO: AP

The annual event has its origin in a German legend about a furry rodent.

According to records dating back to 1887, Phil has predicted winter over 100 times. Ten years were lost because no records were kept, organisers said.

The 2020 forecast called for an early spring.

Punxsutawney Phil may be the most famous groundhog seer but he’s certainly not the only one, and one competitor disagreed with his prediction. New York City’s Staten Island Chuck expected an early spring, according to Staten Island District Attorney Michael McMahon, who presided over a ceremony that was livestreamed from Chuck’s home at the Staten Island Zoo.

“He did not see his shadow. We will have an early spring,” McMahon announced.