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Punxsutawney Phil 2012: More Winter Predicted On Groundhog Day At Gobbler's Knob (PHOTOS/VIDEO)

02/ 2/12 11:49 PM ET  AP

PUNXSUTAWNEY, Pa. — Pennsylvania's Punxsutawney Phil told people to prepare for six more weeks of winter on Thursday, making him the minority opinion among his groundhog brethren who seem to think that spring is coming early.

But with such a mild and relatively snowless winter so far, who can tell the difference?

Phil's "prediction" came as he emerged from his lair to "see" his shadow on Gobbler's Knob, a tiny hill in the town for which he's named about 65 miles northeast of Pittsburgh.

Yet groundhogs in at least five other states – West Virginia's French Creek Freddie, Georgia's Gen. Beauregard Lee, Michigan's Woody the Woodchuck, Ohio's Buckeye Chuck and New York's Staten Island Chuck (full name: Charles G. Hogg) – did not see their shadows. Nor did Ontario's Wiarton Willie or Nova Scotia's Shubenacadie Sam.

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

Temperatures were near freezing when Phil emerged at dawn – unseasonably warm for Punxsutawney – and were forecast to climb into the mid-40s in a winter that's brought little snow and only a few notably cold days to much of the East.

Organizers expected 15,000 to 18,000 people to witness the prognostication ceremony that was held just before 7:30 a.m.

And the ceremony is largely that: Phil's prediction is determined ahead of time by the Punxsutawney Groundhog Club's Inner Circle, a group who dons top hats and tuxedos and decides in advance what the furry creature will predict.

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett was among the spectators this year. Those who couldn't make it to Gobbler's Knob could follow the groundhog on Twitter and Facebook, or watch a webcast of the event on his website.

"What started as a small gathering in 1887 has now evolved into tens of thousands of visitors from around the nation and even the world coming to Punxsutawney to participate in this time-honored Groundhog Day tradition," Corbett said.

Phil has now seen his shadow 100 times and hasn't seen it just 16 times since 1886, according to the Inner Circle. There are no records for the remaining years.

The tradition attained a large following with the 1993 Bill Murray comedy "Groundhog Day," in which a weatherman covering the event must relive the day over and over again. Before the movie came out, Phil was lucky to have an audience of 2,500, said Mike Johnston, vice president of the Inner Circle.

And while the group has records of Phil's predictions dating back to 1886, what it doesn't have is a tally of whether Phil was right.

Johnston said the reason is simple: "He's never been wrong." Phil is "incapable of error," he said, because the groundhog smartly avoids being site-specific in his prognostications.

If Phil predicts six more weeks of winter, said Johnston, "I guarantee you someone's going to have six more weeks of winter."

___

Online:

http://www.groundhog.org

http://www.twitter.com/groundhogclub

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Groundhog Club handler Ron Ploucha holds Punxsutawney Phil, the weather prognosticating groundhog, during the 126th celebration of Groundhog Day on Gobbler's Knob in Punxsutawney, Pa. Thursday, Feb. 2, 2012. Phil saw his shadow, forecasting six more weeks of winter weather. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

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@ KenJennings : Wouldn't it be great if we could keep the spirit of Groundhog Day in our hearts all year round?

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@ Seth__Rogen : I'd like to be the one to explain Groundhogs Day to the aliens when they come. "See, if the groundhog sees its sha--just kill us. Its okay."

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@ FoodNetwork : This Groundhog's Day menu will keep you warm for 6 more weeks of winter: http://t.co/nLgQxM9E.

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@ YouTube : Is there anything better than watching "Groundhog Day" on Groundhog Day? Watch the full video for free: http://t.co/Yywvkxjq

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Punxsutawney Phil rival Woodstock Willie also made a prediction today, but his forecast differs from Phil's. Willie, who is from Woodstock, Illinois, didn't see his shadow, delighting midwesterners with the promise of an early spring.

More here.

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@ ConanOBrien : I like the name "Groundhog Day" much better than the original "Pull Out The Dirt Rat Time."

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Staten Island Chuck (aka Charles C. Hogg), New York City's answer to Punxsutawney Phil, did not see his shadow this morning and "predicted" an early spring.

He also predicted a New York Giants win at this Sunday's Super Bowl XLVI. Many New Yorkers are hoping that Chuck is right.

More here.

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@ neiltyson : Groundhog Day: Evidence that Weather Forecasters still haven't convinced people that they know what they're talking about.

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Did you know that the most famous groundhog weather predictor's full name is: "Punxsutawney Phil, Seer of Seers, Sage of Sages, Prognosticator of Prognosticators and Weather Prophet Extraordinaire?"

Learn more here.

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@ MikeBloomberg : Great news from Staten Island Chuck: Spring will come early this year! #groundhogday http://t.co/JBAmmta5

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@ GMA : Just in: Staten Island Chuck did not see his shadow, predicts early spring for NYC #GroundhogDay

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Curious about the men in top hats in Punxsutawney? Click here to learn about the Inner Circle.

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@ willieofficial : Early spring it is!!! http://t.co/h2QkXniq

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@ 680News : #GroundHogDay update: Ontario's celebrated groundhog #WiartonWillie did NOT see his shadow, predicting early spring!

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The Associated Press recently reported that according to the Global Snow Lab at Rutgers University, January was the third-least snowy on record for the the Lower 48.

AP writes:

But there is lots of snow and dangerous cold — it's just elsewhere in the world. Valdez, Alaska, has had 328 inches of snow this season — 10 feet above average — and the state is frigid, with Yukon hitting a record 66 below zero over the weekend.

Nearly 80 people have died from a vicious cold snap in Europe, and much of Asia has been blanketed with snow. This January has been the ninth snowiest since 1966 for Europe and Asia, though for the entire northern hemisphere, it's been about average for snow this season.

More here.

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@ jaketapper : Today's forecast: "It's gonna be cold. it's gonna be gray. And it's gonna last you for the rest of your life." #GroundHogDay

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@ GroundhogPhil : BREAKING: A terrifying shadow = 6 more weeks of winter! No complaining. We haven’t even had winter yet.

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Punxsutawney Phil predicts 6 more weeks of winter

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Punxsutawney wakes up Phil by chanting his name

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The Inner Circle explains, "Phil's prediction is predicated on what Phil tells the President."

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The Inner Circle takes to the stage in Punxsutawney, PA to introduce "the Great Oz of weather forecasting."

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@ GroundhogPhil : Fireworks, the National Anthem, dancing girls and bad lip syncing. Is this the Super Bowl or Groundhog day?

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@ ATL_Events : How can we have 6 more weeks of winter, when we haven't even had 6 weeks of winter yet? #groundhogday

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@ globalmaritimes : This just in: #ShubenacadieSam didn't see his shadow. Spring is on the way folks, as long as you trust adorable rodents. #GroundhogDay

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@ EmilyReddy : Fireworks were a pleasant surprise. Also, amazing the coffee was still hot. Now the sky is lightening a bit at Gobbler's Knob. #GroundhogDay

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@ produceralex : Queen's "Don't Stop Me Now" is rocking the @groundhogphil crowd this morning. We're there live this half hour on @ABCNews4 #chs #chsnews

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@ accuweather : MT @emilyreddy: PA Gov. Corbett asks for an early spring. The 2nd time in the history of #GroundhogDay a seated gov attended.

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@ ChattNoogaChuck : "Yawn." Getting ready for my 11 am forecast announcement @TNAquarium. Hmmm. It feels lonely around here. #hint

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Every day is Groundhog Day for a woodchuck rescuer. Read the LA Times story here.

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Filed by Joanna Zelman  |  Report Corrections