PUNXSUTAWNEY, Pa. (AP/WWJ) — The handlers of Pennsylvania’s most famous groundhog, Punxsutawney Phil, said Monday 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 Jeff Lundy, the Fair Weatherman 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 turned to snow as temperatures dropped from the high 30s to around freezing. They were forecast to keep dropping over much of the state, prompting the state Department of Transportation to lower the speed limit to 45 mph for many interstate highways which were already wet and expected to freeze or be covered with snow as the day wore on.

The rain kept some revelers away, with state police estimating the crowd at around 11,000, slightly smaller than in recent years when upward of 15,000 attended.

No mention was made of Sunday night’s Super Bowl, unlike Groundhog Day 2009 — the last time the celebration occurred the morning after the big game — which was won by the nearby Pittsburgh Steelers that year.

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 decide on the forecast ahead of time and announce it on Gobbler’s Knob, a tiny hill in the town for which the groundhog is named, about 65 miles northeast of Pittsburgh.

Records going back to 1887 show Phil has now predicted more winter 102 times while forecasting an early spring just 17 times. There are no records for the remaining years.

With hundreds of schools closed in metro Detroit and 16.7 inches  of snow on the ground it seems like we are in for the long haul as far a winter weather is concerned.

Locally, Howell Conference and Nature Center officials say Murray – an 8-month-old female – named for the actor Bill Murray, rendered her forecast Monday morning after seeing her shadow. She was standing in for Woody the Woodchuck, the state’s official groundhog recovering from a respiratory infection.

Spokeswoman April Gasbarre says at least a foot of fresh snow was on the ground at the Livingston County center, which made the prediction seem appropriate. Murray stayed in her house, which staff members interpret as a reluctance to emerge and see her shadow.

The not-so-scientific forecast comes after a storm dropped 1 1/2 feet of snow over parts of Michigan’s Lower Peninsula.

The actor Bill Murray is known for movies including “Groundhog Day.”

 

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