Punxsutawney Phil, the weather-predicting groundhog, has seen his shadow, promising six more weeks of winter.
The furry animal emerged from his burrow before a crowd of 18,000 people, including Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett, who gathered in the town of Punxsutawney in western Pennsylvania for the annual event.
“Summoned from his burrow by a tap from President Bill Deeley, Phil proclaimed as he looked on the crowd at Gobbler’s Knob, many shadows do I see,” said Mike Johnston, vice president of the Groundhog Club, which manages the annual event.
The crowd, some wearing brown fuzzy hats and carrying signs, responded with cheers, claps and chants.
“We haven’t really had a winter yet, so I think we are due,” said Melanie Haintz, a student at Virginia Tech University, who drove up for the event with five friends. “It’s a special event, something different, and we all got our pictures taken with Phil.”
According to tradition if the groundhog comes out of his hole on February 2 and sees his shadow, six more weeks of freezing temperatures and snow are in store. In western Pennsylvania, residents have been watching groundhogs for weather predictions since 1887.
“It’s put Punxsutawney on the map,” said Janine Despines, who grew up in the town but now lives in Pittsburgh
“My mother was a Groundhog Queen in 1962. I don’t remember it being so big when I was a kid, but in the last ten years it has really taken off. It’s the town’s big event and it supports the local economy,” said Despines.
Corbett, who flew in by helicopter for the event, said he had hoped Phil would predict an early Spring so the state government would not have to spend money on salt and snow removal.
“We don’t have the Super Bowl to compete with since the (Pittsburgh) Steelers aren’t in,” said Bill Deeley, president of the Groundhog Club. “It’s a fun tradition that the whole town gets into.”