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Associated Press
Groundhog Club’s Ron Ploucha holds Punxsutawney Phil on Saturday in Punxsutawney, Pa.

Punxsutawney Phil predicts early spring

– An end to winter’s bitter cold will come soon, according to Pennsylvania’s famous groundhog.

Following a recent stretch of weather that’s included temperatures well below freezing as well as record warmth, tornadoes in the South and Midwest and torrential rains in the mid-Atlantic, Punxsutawney Phil emerged from his lair Saturday in front of thousands but didn’t see his shadow.

Legend says if the furry rodent sees his shadow on Feb. 2 on Gobbler’s Knob in west-central Pennsylvania, winter will last six more weeks. But if he doesn’t see his shadow, spring will come early.

The prediction is made during a ceremony overseen by a group called the Inner Circle. Members don top hats and tuxedos for the ceremony on Groundhog Day each year.

Bill Deeley, president of the Inner Circle, says that after “consulting” with Phil, he makes the call in deciphering what the world’s Punxsutawney Phil has to say about the weather.

Phil’s got company in the forecasting department. There’s Staten Island Chuck, in New York; General Beauregard Lee, in Atlanta; and Wiarton Willie, in Wiarton, Ontario, among others noted by the National Climactic Data Center “Groundhog Day” Web page.

“Punxsutawney can’t keep something this big to itself,” the Data Center said. “Other prognosticating rodents are popping up to claim a piece of the action.”

Phil is the original – and the best, Punxsutawney partisans insist.

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