Punxsutawney Phil, America’s most famous groundhog, emerged from a simulated tree stump to see his shadow Monday morning, portending six more weeks of winter. The rodent’s forecast was announced by the Inner Circle of the Punxsutawney Groundhog Club, which presides over the annual Groundhog Day ceremony at dawn on Gobbler’s Knob, about 75 miles northeast of Pittsburgh.
The prediction was immediately disputed by Staten Island Chuck, New York City’s own prognosticating groundhog, who did not see his shadow.
“Chuck says early spring!” Mayor Bill de Blasio announced Monday morning. The local New York event went off without a hitch, a significant departure from last year, when the holiday took a dark turn as Chuck wriggled free of de Blasio’s grasp, falling several feet to the ground. The groundhog died one week later from internal injuries.
This year, the Staten Island Zoo kept Chuck in a Plexiglas enclosure as a safety precaution, preventing another mayoral mishap.
Groundhog Day derives from German tradition, which holds that if a hibernating animal casts a shadow on Feb. 2 – the Christian holiday of Candlemas – winter will continue another six weeks. If the animal doesn’t see its shadow, legend says, spring will come early.
According to the Groundhog Club, both Phil and his earlier incarnations have tended to predict more winter weather, with records indicating shadows were observed nearly 100 times since 1887.
Although Phil knocked it out of the park with last year’s prediction, the forecasting ability of the groundhog – also known as a woodchuck or a whistle-pig – is generally poor. According to the National Climatic Data Center, Phil’s predictions have missed the mark more than 55% of the time over the past 27 years.