Human Interest

Punxsutawney Phil forecasts six more weeks of winter in US

Washington, Feb 2 (EFE).- Phil, the famous groundhog from Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, on Thursday “predicted” six more weeks of winter in the United States.

On yet another Feb. 2, the town of Punxsutawney celebrated its traditional Groundhog Day, which is hailed all over the nation and which rivets the attention of untold thousands of people wanting to know what Phil is saying about the weather.

Specifically, tradition holds that if he sees his shadow upon emerging from his underground burrow he will return to hibernate for six more weeks of winter, but if no shadow is visible then he’ll remain outdoors, thus heralding the arrival of an early spring.

The rural area of Gobbler’s Knob is “home” to Phil, and there have been many groundhogs that have served in that traditional role over the years.

That is the site where the festive forecasting ceremony is held each year, starting the previous night and concluding at dawn, when the officials of the local Groundhog Club – who sponsor the ceremony and serve as the current Phil’s caretakers – outfitted in their ceremonial robes and hats arrive to “converse” with the oracle and be on hand when he makes his forecast.

Despite the wishes of the greater public, who – given all the harsh weather the US has experienced this winter – clearly want spring to arrive quickly, Phil’s caretakers removed him from his burrow, displayed him to the assembled throng and left him to his own devices on the raised platform from whence he quickly issued this year’s prediction: Six more weeks of winter.

The first Groundhog Day celebration was held in 1887 in Punxsutawney and it has been held almost every year since then, although the tradition is thought to have been begun many years before that with the arrival of Dutch immigrants in the area.

Phil’s forecasting track record, however, has not really been all that good over the years, and according to statistics he’s been right less than 40 percent of the time, leading some non-traditionalists to suggest that perhaps seeing his shadow should be what heralds an early spring and not seeing it should mean that winter will continue.

This year happens to be the third straight year he has spotted his shadow, thus bringing winter to a close, but of the 127 recorded times Phil has issued his solemn prognostication, he has now seen his shadow on 107 occasions (84 percent), with his longest shadow-spotting streak being 31, or every year from 1903-33.

The groundhog, or woodchuck, is one of 14 species of marmot, which gorges itself in the autumn and then hibernates in its underground burrow until spring.

EFE –/bp

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