Punxsutawney Phil predicts an early spring

Punxsutawney Phil, the weather predicting groundhog, center, stands on the shoulder of one of his handlers John Griffiths while looking at other handler Ben Hughes, after the Groundhog Club claimed that Phil did not see his shadow and winter has ended on Groundhog Day, Wednesday, Feb. 2, 2011, in Punxsutawney, Pa.



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Punxsutawney Phil, the weather predicting groundhog, center, stands on the shoulder of one of his handlers John Griffiths while looking at other handler Ben Hughes, after the Groundhog Club claimed that Phil did not see his shadow and winter has ended on Groundhog Day, Wednesday, Feb. 2, 2011, in Punxsutawney, Pa.

PUNXSUTAWNEY, Pa. — The country’s most famous groundhog predicted an early spring today but wasn’t willing to go out on a limb to forecast whether his state’s Pittsburgh Steelers will win the Super Bowl.

Punxsutawney Phil emerged just after dawn on Groundhog Day to make his 125th annual weather forecast in front of a smaller-than-usual crowd in rural Pennsylvania who braved muddy, icy conditions to hear his handlers reveal that he had not seen his shadow.

Including today’s forecast, Phil has seen his shadow 98 times and hasn’t seen it just 16 times since 1887, according to the Punxsutawney Groundhog Club’s Inner Circle, which runs the event. There are no records for the remaining years, though the group has never failed to issue a forecast.

Two years ago, Phil’s forecast also acknowledged the Steelers’ Super Bowl XLIII win the night before. This year, Sunday’s game was mentioned in the forecast but no winner was predicted between the Steelers and the Green Bay Packers, who meet in Dallas for Super Bowl XLV.

“The Steelers are going to the Super Bowl,” Mike Johnson, vice president of the Inner Circle, said just before the forecast was read, drawing cheers from the clearly partisan crowd gathered on Gobbler’s Knob, a tiny hill in this borough of about 6,100 residents some 65 miles northeast of Pittsburgh.

The Groundhog Day celebration is rooted in a German superstition that says if a hibernating animal casts a shadow on Feb. 2, the Christian holiday of Candlemas, winter will last another six weeks. If no shadow was seen, legend said spring would come early.



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