On Groundhog Day, Punxsutawney Phil predicts the start of spring in the United States | Weather news

More than 40,000 people gathered to see the Pennsylvania tipster, part of a tradition dating back to 1887.

Pennsylvania’s top tipster, Punxsutawney Phil, didn’t see his shadow Friday during the annual Groundhog Day celebrations, meaning that, legend has it, there will be an early spring.

The American state tradition of using a large rodent to predict the seasons dates back to the Pennsylvania Dutch’s belief that if a groundhog left its burrow and saw its shadow, it would scurry inside and winter would last six more weeks.

Groundhog Day is now a major annual event at Gobbler’s Knob in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, with top-hatted compadres, cheering crowds and full-court press.

Phil and his predecessors, also called Phil, had been forecasting since 1887, and this year more than 40,000 people camped out in a festival atmosphere to wait for the sunrise and the emergence of the groundhog.

“Another winter sleep stopped so I could meet the crowd. It’s hard to sleep when the party is this loud anyway,” said Dan McGinley, vice president of the Punxsutawney Groundhog Club, reading a parchment “selected” by the groundhog.

The crowd watches the festivities as they wait for Punxsutawney Phil, the weather forecaster groundhog, to come out and make his prediction during the 138th Groundhog Day Celebration on Gobbler's Knob in Punxsutawney, Pa., Friday, Feb. 2, 2024. Managers of Phil said the groundhog predicted an early spring.  (AP Photo/Barry Reeger)
A crowd watches the festivities while waiting for Punxsutawney Phil, the weather forecasting groundhog, to come make his prediction (Barry Reeger/AP Photo)

McGinley even raised the possibility of voters writing Punxsutawney Phil’s name on ballots as the United States enters a presidential election year.

Over the past 10 years, Phil has only been accurate 30 percent of the time, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

In 2023, Phil saw his shadow, but temperatures in February were above average and in March only slightly lower, leading NOAA to declare that the furry forecaster was wrong.

Pennsylvania Governor Josh Shapiro took the stage before Phil to urge people around the world watching the upcoming festivities in Punxsutawney next year. Shapiro also announced that the famous groundhog is Pennsylvania’s new official meteorologist.

“Punxsutawney is the center of the universe right now and I love that you are all here,” Shapiro said.

Eager to cash in on the wildlife forecaster craze, other states have adopted their own weather soothsayers, including Wisconsin’s Sun Prairie Jimmy, Michigan’s Woody the Woodchuck and Connecticut’s Scramble the Duck.

Companies haven’t missed a trick, with potato chip maker Frito Lay preparing to release commercials showing actor Stephen Tobolowsky enduring a scenario similar to the plot of the popular film Groundhog Day.

The cult 1993 film, in which Tobolowsky played a relentlessly optimistic salesman, saw leading man Bill Murray stuck in an endless 24-hour loop after Punxsutawney Phil predicted six more weeks of winter.

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