Photograph from AP
“The sky is clear. Prepare for warmth!” With those rousing words Wednesday morning, the world’s most famous groundhog, Punxsutawney Phil, offered a ray of hope to millions of Americans being buffeted by a monster winter storm.
By seeing no shadow as he emerged from his ceremonial burrow in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, on Groundhog Day 2011, Phil, according to tradition, is said to have predicted an early spring.
“Groundhog Day is a lot like a rock concert, but the people are better behaved and there’s a groundhog involved,” Tom Chapin, editor of the Punxsutawney Spirit newspaper, told National Geographic News last Groundhog Day eve.
“There’s music and entertainment, spoofs of game shows, and people shooting t-shirts and Beanie Babies” into the crowd, he said.
Legend has it that if Punxsutawney Phil emerges from his temporary burrow—a simulated tree stump at the rural site of Gobbler’s Knob—on February 2 and sees his shadow, winter weather will continue for six more weeks across the United States. But if Phil doesn’t see his shadow, then spring temperatures are just around the corner.
Regardless of the weather prediction, on Groundhog Day, Phil “speaks” to his human caretakers, known as the Inner Circle, in Groundhogese and tells them his forecast. The Inner Circle then translates Phil’s words for the world to hear—or so they say.
On Groundhog Day 2011, “immortal” Punxsutawney Phil—supposedly born no later than the 19th century—got his message out in some decidedly 21st-century ways, by texting his forecast (to sign up, text “groundhog” to 247365) and, of course, updating his Facebook status and the Pennsylvania-tourism Twitter feed.