Punxsutawney Phil prepares to make his annual Groundhog Day winter weather forecast


PUNXSUTAWNEY, Pa. — Punxsutawney Phil’s winter weather forecast will be announced sometime after sunrise Friday in Gobbler’s Knob, the scene of the country’s largest and most well-known Groundhog Day celebration.

The annual event is a tongue-in-cheek ritual in which Phil’s handlers, members of a club with roots in the late 19th century, reveal whether the groundhog has seen his shadow — ushering in six more weeks of winter weather — or hasn’t, presaging early springlike weather.

About 10,000 people have made their way in recent years to Punxsutawney, where festivities begin in the dead of night and culminate in the midwinter forecast.

Phil predicts more winter far more often than he sees an early spring, not a bad bet for February and March in western Pennsylvania. A federal agency took a look at his record last year and put his accuracy rate at about 40%.

The tradition of celebrating the midpoint between the shortest day of the year on the winter solstice and the spring equinox goes back many centuries in European farm life.

There are more than a dozen active groundhog clubs in Pennsylvania, some dating back to the 1930s, and weather-predicting groundhogs have appeared in at least 28 U.S. states and Canadian provinces.

The 1993 blockbuster film “Groundhog Day,” starring Bill Murray, fueled interest in Punxsutawney Phil and inspired informal observations far and wide.

When he’s not making his annual prognostication, Phil lives in a customized space beside the Punxsutawney Memorial Library, with a window where library patrons can check out his burrow. Back in 2009, library workers said Phil had somehow managed to escape three times, climbing into the library ceiling and dropping into offices about 50 feet (15 meters) away. He wasn’t injured.



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