Punxsutawney Phil sees shadow, foresees long North American winter

Groundhog Club President Bill Deeley listens to Punxsutawney Phil for his forecast while handler Ron Ploucha holds him at Gobbler's Knob on the 131st Groundhog Day in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, U.S. February 2, 2017.

By Laila Kearney

(Reuters) – Punxsutawney Phil, the famous Pennsylvania groundhog that can supposedly forecast when the North American winter will end, dashed hopes for an early spring on Thursday when he emerged from his tree stump and saw his squirmy shadow.

Each year on Groundhog Day, Feb. 2, thousands of revelers gather in the town of Punxsutawney, about 80 miles northeast of Pittsburgh, to witness a groundhog that has been designated as “Phil” make his prediction.

As legend has it, if the little rodent sees his shadow on Groundhog Day, Feb. 2, frigid and blustery weather will continue for six weeks. If it is cloudy and no shadow appears, the onset of spring is near.

“It don’t look good guys,” Bill Deeley, president of The Punxsutawney Groundhog Club, told the crowd early on Thursday after pulling Phil from his lair at Gobbler’s Knob. “Ladies and gentlemen, he has made his prediction.”

The portly animal squirmed and bared his tiny teeth as his audience cheered. One woman shouted, “We love you, Phil!”

As Phil appeared to gnaw on the glove of his handler, a presenter wearing a top-hat and red bow tie read the weather outlook: “My faithful followers, I clearly see, a perfect clear shadow of me. Six more weeks of winter it shall be.”

Groundhogs have been offering weather predictions in the tiny Punxsutawney since 1887.

The annual Groundhog Day event, made more popular by the 1993 comedy film “Groundhog Day” starring Bill Murray, draws faithful followers from as far away as Australia and Russia.

(Editing by Frances Kerry)