Archive for Saturday, February 3, 2001

Weather-forecasting marmot predicts more winter

February 3, 2001


— With temperatures just below freezing, flurries falling and lingering snow crunching underfoot, Punxsutawney Phil the world's most famous groundhog saw his shadow Friday morning.

According to legend, that means winter will stick around for six more weeks. In the past 115 years, Phil has seen his shadow 101 times.

The prospect of six more weeks of winter wasn't welcome news to Miriam Wise, 11.

"I want spring so I can go barefoot and start planting," Miriam said as she walked along a downtown street toward the library, the groundhog's makeshift zoo.

Bill Cooper, president of the Punxsutawney Groundhog Club Inner Circle was charged with interpreting Phil's predictions.

He interpreted Phil's squeaks and body language after the groundhog exited from his hole.

Weather-prognosticating groundhog Punxsutawney Phil is held by
handler Bill Deeley.

Weather-prognosticating groundhog Punxsutawney Phil is held by handler Bill Deeley.

"Groundhogese is like no other language. I can just take a look at his expression and tell," Cooper said. "He decides. I just interpret what he sees."

The Groundhog Day tradition is rooted in a German superstition that if an animal casts a shadow on Feb. 2 the Christian holiday of Candlemas bad weather is coming.

The Punxsutawney Chamber of Commerce was expecting 15,000 to 20,000 visitors to join Phil in town, more than the 10,000 to 12,000 who arrived last year.

In 1984, fewer than 1,000 people turned out for Phil's prognostication. But interest in his shadow has grown, especially since the 1993 release of "Groundhog Day," the Bill Murray comedy that featured the celebration.

The movie generated bigger crowds with people in their late teens and 20s who added drinking and shirtless dancing to the mix.

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