Groundhog says six more weeks of winter
The handlers of Pennsylvania's most famous groundhog, Punxsutawney Phil, say the furry rodent has forecast six more weeks of winter.
Members of the top hat-wearing Inner Circle announced the "prediction" Monday morning.
A German legend has it that if a furry rodent sees his shadow on Feb. 2, winter will last another six weeks. If not, spring comes early.
The forecast was also announced on Twitter, as was referenced in the official proclamation read by Bill Deeley, president of the Inner Circle.
"Forecasts abound on the Internet, but, I, Punxsutawney Phil, am still your best bet. Yes, a shadow I see, you can start to Twitter, hash tag: Six more weeks of winter!"
The forecast was delivered after a steady pre-dawn rain. It turned to snow as temperatures dropped from the high 30s to around freezing. They were forecast to keep dropping over much of the state. That prompted the state Department of Transportation to lower the speed limit to 45 mph for many interstate highways. They were already wet and expected to freeze or be covered with snow as the day wore on.
The rain kept some revelers away. State police estimated the crowd at around 11,000. The gathering was slightly smaller than in recent years when upward of 15,000 people attended.
No mention was made of Sunday night's Super Bowl. That was unlike Groundhog Day 2009, the last time the celebration occurred the morning after the big game. The 2009 game was won by the nearby Pittsburgh Steelers.
Despite the German legend, Phil's handlers don't wait to see if he sees his shadow as he likely would not have on such an overcast day. Instead, the Inner Circle decides on the forecast ahead of time. The group announces it on Gobbler's Knob, a tiny hill in the town for which the groundhog is named. Punxsutawney is about 65 miles northeast of Pittsburgh.
Records going back to 1887 show Phil has now predicted more winter 102 times. An early spring was the forecast just 17 times. There are no records for the remaining years.
Critical thinking challenge: Why was the result of the Super Bowl bigger news in Punxsutawney in 2009 than this year?