Groundhog Predicts More Winter


Punxsutawney, PA Feb. 2 (AP by Todd Spangler)--With bitter cold and fresh snowfall as confirmation, part-time weatherman and full-time groundhog Punxsutawney Phil saw his shadow this morning and predicted six more weeks of winter.

Spectators jumped and danced to keep warm in the 15-degree air as the groundhog's forecast _ made despite overcast skies _ was reported by his handlers.

The bitter cold _ or a well-publicized ban on alcohol _ may have deterred spectators who lacked Phil's lush fur. Organizers said anticipated only 8,000 or 9,000 visitors, instead of the 15,000 who usually turn out.

``My toes are frostbitten, but it warms up if you start dancing,'' said Dan Pellam of Emporium, who was making his first visit to Phil's lair.

The Groundhog Day tradition is rooted in a German superstition that if an animal casts a shadow on Feb. 2 _ the Christian holiday of Candlemas _ bad weather is coming.

In the 111 years since German farmers began the festival in Punxsutawney, the morning of Feb. 2 has evolved into an elaborate show of hoodwinkery.

In years past, members of the Inner Circle, the club that stages the annual midwinter festival, voted the night before whether or not Phil would see his shadow, rain or shine.

Skies had been cloudy throughout Tuesday and into today, with snow falling much of the time.

In this central Pennsylvania town of 6,700 people, Phil sees his shadow most years. Only 14 times has he predicted an early spring.

Phil's city cousin, New York's Staten Island Chuck, agreed with today's forecast. Chuck wandered out of his hut at the Staten Island Zoo and saw his shadow around 7:30 a.m., said zoo spokeswoman Lorraine Austin.

That didn't discourage Georgia's prognosticating groundhog, General Beauregard Lee, who emerged from his home in Lilburn to predict an early spring.

Copyright (c) 2000 The Associated Press