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Groundhog handlers say Punxsutawney Phil saw his shadow, forecasting 6 more weeks of winter

FILE - In a Saturday, Feb. 2, 2013 file photo, Groundhog Club co-handler Ron Ploucha holds the weather predicting groundhog, Punxsutawney Phil, after the club said Phil did not see his shadow and there will be an early spring, on Groundhog Day, in Punxsutawney, Pa. Groundhog Day coincides with the Super Bowl for the first time on Sunday, Feb. 2, , but Punxsutawney Phil’s people say they don’t expect the big game to steal his early morning spotlight. the Punxsutawney Groundhog Club expects about 20,000 revelers to gather around Gobbler’s Knob when western Pennsylvania’s world-famous rodent emerges from his lair just after dawn Sunday. (AP Photo/Keith Srakocic, File)

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FILE - In a Saturday, Feb. 2, 2013 file photo, Groundhog Club co-handler Ron Ploucha holds the weather predicting groundhog, Punxsutawney Phil, after the club said Phil did not see his shadow and there will be an early spring, on Groundhog Day, in Punxsutawney, Pa. Groundhog Day coincides with the Super Bowl for the first time on Sunday, Feb. 2, , but Punxsutawney Phil’s people say they don’t expect the big game to steal his early morning spotlight. the Punxsutawney Groundhog Club expects about 20,000 revelers to gather around Gobbler’s Knob when western Pennsylvania’s world-famous rodent emerges from his lair just after dawn Sunday. (AP Photo/Keith Srakocic, File)

PUNXSUTAWNEY, Pa. - The handlers for groundhog Punxsutawney Phil say he's forecasting six more weeks of what already has felt like a brutally long and cold winter.

Pennsylvania's famed groundhog emerged from his lair in front of thousands of fans around daybreak Sunday.

Legend has it that if the furry rodent sees his shadow on Feb. 2, winter will last another month-and-a-half. If he doesn't see it, spring will come early.

In reality, Phil's prediction is decided ahead of time by a group called the Inner Circle, whose members don top hats and tuxedos for the annual Groundhog Day ceremony on Gobbler's Knob, the tiny hill in the town for which he's named about 65 miles northeast of Pittsburgh.

According to records going back to 1887, Phil has now seen his shadow 101 times while failing to see it 17 times, according to the Inner Circle. There are no records for the remaining years.

This year's Groundhog Day celebration marks a winter that has brought extreme cold to stretches of the country wholly unaccustomed to it, as well as a snow and ice storm that paralyzed Atlanta and other Southern cities.

Phil is the most famous of a small group of groundhogs said to forecast the weather, including Staten Island Chuck in New York and General Beauregard Lee in Atlanta.

The National Climatic Data Center has put Phil's forecasts to the test and found them sorely lacking, declaring the groundhog has "no predictive skill."

"It really isn't a 'bright' idea to take a measure such as a groundhog's shadow and use it as a predictive meteorological tool for the entire United States," the data centre says on its website, helpfully if somewhat obviously.

___

Rubinkam reported from northeast Pennsylvania.

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