PUNXSUTAWNEY, Pennsylvania — Punxsutawney Phil, the American groundhog famous for his weather predictions, saw his shadow after emerging from his burrow atop Gobbler’s Knob in Pennsylvania on Monday, forecasting six more weeks of winter.
Phil’s prediction came at about 7:25 a.m. EST in the Western Pennsylvania borough of Punxsutawney, where some in his audience chanted “six more weeks, six more weeks” as they waited.
Legend has it that if the groundhog sees his shadow, North America will experience six more weeks of winter and if he does not, spring will come early.
“Six more weeks of winter means more potential for snow days so I am not exactly heartbroken,” said Robin Amador, 39, an educator from Lorain, Ohio. “I could kiss that little guy for that.”
The history of groundhogs, also known as woodchucks, as weather prognosticators in the United States dates to the 1800s, according to the Punxsutawney Groundhog Club’s website.
Celebrations of the holiday take place throughout the United States but thanks in part to “Groundhog Day,” the 1993 film starring Bill Murray and set in Punxsutawney, Phil’s burrow is the epicenter of celebration.
Each year on Feb. 2, the borough of about 6,000 people swells to as many as 30,000 revelers, who come decked out in groundhog hats and scarves and holding signs begging for winter’s hasty exit.
Hank Zaborniak, 29, used the occasion to propose to his girlfriend, Jaquelynn Kestner, 31. “He said he wouldn’t mind spending the rest of his life with me or the same day over and over,” the Ohio woman said, alluding to the plot of Murray’s film.
Other rodent forecasters contradicted Phil.
In Wisconsin, Jimmy the Groundhog bit the ear of Sun Prairie Mayor Jon Freund as the rodent whispered a prediction that, tradition has it, only the mayor can understand. Freund told the crowd Jimmy predicted spring is on the way.
In New York City’s take on the tradition, officials tried a new arms-length approach on a snowy, slushy Monday at the Staten Island Zoo. A groundhog bit the hand of the previous mayor, Michael Bloomberg, in 2009 and last year, Mayor Bill de Blasio dropped a groundhog, which died a few days later.
This time, a specially built rodent-sized elevator lifted the groundhog known as Staten Island Chuck into what zoo officials called “an innovative Groundhog Day viewing unit”: a box with clear plastic sides and fake turf.
“I think we got NASA involved,” de Blasio said.
Despite the shadows cast by the strong halogen lights pointing at the groundhog, the creature’s handlers had warmer news than that coming out of Pennsylvania.
“Spring is coming,” the mayor announced, looking relieved.
No mayors or groundhogs were harmed.