2011-02-03 / Front Page

Phil’s Official Prognostication: Spring Will Come Early In 2011

Staff Report

The world’s most famous groundhog predicted an early spring Wednesday, but reportedly wasn’t willing to go out on a limb to forecast whether the nearby Pittsburgh Steelers will win Sunday’s Super Bowl over the Green Bay Packers.

“Punxsutawney Phil” emerged just after dawn on Groundhog Day to make his 125th annual weather forecast in front of a smaller-than-usual crowd that braved muddy, icy conditions to hear his handlers reveal that he had not seen his shadow.

Including Wednesday’s forecast, Phil has seen his shadow 98 times and hasn’t seen it just 16 times since 1887, according to the Punxsutawney Groundhog Club’s Inner Circle, which runs the event. There are no records for the remaining years, though the group has never failed to issue a forecast.

The Groundhog Day celebration is rooted in a German superstition that says if a hibernating animal casts a shadow on February 2, the Christian holiday of Candlemas, winter will last another six weeks. If no shadow was seen, legend said spring would come early.

In reality, though, Phil doesn’t see much of anything. The result is actually decided in advance by 14 members of the Inner Circle, who don tuxedos and top hats for the event.

The celebration usually draws between 10,000 and 15,000 spectators when it falls on a weekday, though on Wednesday Phil’s hometown, much like the rest of the country, was under a winter weather warning. While heavier snows and sleet never materialized, rain falling in about 35-degree temperatures made for a below-average crowd at Gobbler’s Knob, a tiny hill in the borough of about 6,100 residents some 65 miles northeast of Pittsburgh.

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