Punxsutawney Phil, a famed US groundhog with an even more famous shadow, emerged from his burrow yesterday and predicted six more weeks of winter, much to the chagrin of those hoping for an early spring.
The rotund rodent exited his subterranean residence at Gobblers Knob in the western Pennsylvania town of Punxsutawney around 7.30am on Groundhog Day. The fuzzy forecaster made his appearance to the shouts of "groundhog", as eager spectators waited to see whether the groundhog - as the legend goes - will see his shadow and predict six more weeks of snow and freezing temperatures. If he does not, locals can expect an early spring. This year, Phil predicted winter will stretch on.
The annual event, further popularised by the 1993 comedy Groundhog Day starring Bill Murray, draws thousands of followers from as far away as Australia and Russia, but Phil's forecast of six more weeks of winter was bittersweet for some.
"I happen to be a positive person, so I will enjoy the next six weeks of winter with the best attitude and be happy to be alive and healthy with my good friends," said Lori Weber, 54, from Sewickley, Pennsylvania.
Others came early for the event, braving drizzle and poor light. Carrie Juvan, 37, of Cleveland, Ohio came with her father.
"We are here having a blast because dad put it on his bucket list. I like snow but I am ready for the spring. He asked me about it months ago and I instantly said yes," she said.