By Brendan O’Brien
(Reuters) – The celebrated groundhog known as Punxsutawney Phil emerged from his Pennsylvania burrow on Friday and failed to see his shadow, a sign that the warmer temperatures of spring will arrive early in North America, according to folklore.
Thousands of revelers gathered at dawn in Punxsutawney, a small town northeast of Pittsburgh, to celebrate Groundhog Day and watch Phil make his way out of his tree stump to offer his annual weather forecast.
“What this weather did not provide is a shadow or reason to hide. Glad tidings on this Groundhog Day. An early spring is on the way,” Phil’s official “interpreter” read in a proclamation, as a round of cheers went up from the small crowd who witnessed the tongue-in-cheek event staged every Feb. 2 in the town.
According to legend, if the rodent sees his shadow on Groundhog Day, frigid and blustery weather will persist for six weeks. If it is cloudy and no shadow appears, the onset of spring is near.
The event evolved from an ancient ritual brought to America by German immigrants who settled in what is now the state of Pennsylvania. The first official celebration of Groundhog Day was in 1886, according to the Punxsutawney Groundhog Club.
Groundhog Day, famously featured in the classic 1993 film of the same name starring Bill Murray, draws visitors from around the world, even though the creature’s track record is spotty.
On average, Phil has only predicted the weather correctly 30% of the time over the past 10 years, according to the National Centers for Environmental Information.
As Punxsutawney Phil made his prediction on Friday, California was bracing for a second atmospheric river that was due to bring more torrential rains on Sunday after a similar storm dumped heavy rains on the state earlier this week.
But the Pittsburgh area can look forward to mostly mild, sunny weather until late next week, with temperatures ranging as high as 57 Fahrenheit (14 Celsius), much warmer than usual for early February.
(Reporting by Brendan O’Brien in Chicago)