Groundhog Day: Punxsutawney Phil predicts six more weeks of winter as fans follow ceremony online

·2-min read

Punxsutawney Phil, the weather-predicting US marmot, has forecast another six weeks of winter on Groundhog Day 2021.

The creature, who emerges from his tree-stump burrow in the small town of Gobbler's Knob in western Pennsylvania at dawn on the same day every year, came out and saw his shadow.

According to legend, that means the country can expect below-average temperatures for the next six weeks.

But, on the upside, Phil reckons a lovely Spring will follow once the cold weather clears.

Tens of thousands normally attend the annual festival, made famous by the 1993 romantic comedy starring Bill Murray and Andie MacDowell.

Last year, 40,000 people came, said Phil's handlers, the Groundhog Club. This year the crowds were replaced by cardboard cut-outs.

Anyone wanting to follow it had to do so online as, due to the continued spread of COVID-19, no visitors were permitted at the ceremony, which was streamed live by the Pennsylvania Tourism Office.

His prediction could hardly be better timed, just as the northeastern US got blanketed with its second day of snow and with Pennsylvania one of the states where more is forecast as a major storm rumbles through.

More than a foot of snow fell in some parts, including in New York City.

Little wonder, perhaps, that his handlers announced Phil decided to wait it out for another six weeks.

Jeff Lundy, president of the Punxsutawney Groundhog Club and Phil's official interpreter, said: "Now, when I turn to see, there's a perfect shadow cast of me, six more weeks of winter there will be."

Mr Lundy had a hopeful message for the future, adding that Phil "has also told us after winter, you're looking forward to one of the most beautiful and brightest springs you've ever seen".

Dan McGinley, aka Moonshine, one of the top-hatted and face-masked club members officiating, said: "Normally, there are thousands of you here with us helping us celebrate.

"This year, a few of you did manage to sneak in - in replica form. Your avatars are our crowd. You look great."

Last year, Punxsutawney Phil predicted an early spring by not seeing his shadow.

Sure enough, temperatures came in above average in the region and across the contiguous United States, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.