Bye Bye Winter? Punxsutawney Phil Predicts an Early Spring on Groundhog Day
Around 7:30 a.m. on Saturday, famed groundhog Punxsutawney Phil emerged from his slumber and didn’t see his shadow, meaning an early spring is apparently on the horizon.
“Faithful followers, there is no shadow of me and a beautiful spring it shall be,” a top-hatted member of Phil’s Inner Circle told the crowd as he read from a scroll, according to CNN.
Perhaps getting a little too ahead of himself, another member of Phil’s Inner Circle held up a sign reading, “Get out your swimsuits.”
Phil’s prediction — which came just days after plummeting temperatures across the country claimed at least 21 lives — should be taken with a grain of salt. According to the Punxsutawney Groundhog Club, the iconic creature’s predictions are only 39 percent accurate.
In fact, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration found that the groundhog showed “no predictive skill.”
“You’re better off trying to decide what the rest of February and March will look like by flipping a coin,” meteorologist Judson Jones told CNN.
Punxsutawney Groundhog Club records also show that Phil is far more likely to see his shadow and has only predicted an early spring 19 times in the last 133 years.
That doesn’t mean that many across the country aren’t holding out for Phil to be right, especially as temperatures in Chicago dipped to-50 degrees with the wind chill during the polar vortex, according to The Chicago Tribune.
Even if Phil’s prediction turns out to be inaccurate, the weather is expected to warm up during the weekend.
Detroit, which clocked in at -14 on Thursday, a 99-year record low, could hit 45 degrees on Sunday and 50 degrees Monday. Chicago, which was -23 on Wednesday morning, may warm up to 52 by Monday.
This time of year, “I don’t think there’s ever been a case where we’ve seen [such a big] shift in temperatures,” Jeff Masters, meteorology director of the Weather Underground, recently told USA Today. “Past record-cold waves have not dissipated this quickly … Here we are going right into spring-like temperatures.”
This year marks the 133rd Groundhog Day celebration, which occurs annually at Gobbler’s Knob in the 5,500-person town of Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania.
According to the Pennsylvania Tourism Office, as many as 30,000 people descend on the tiny town annually to watch Phil make his prediction.
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The origins of Groundhog Day date back to the early days of Christianity in Europe, according to the Pennsylvania Tourism Office.
Born of a winter festival called Candlemas Day, the celebration found churchgoers bringing candles to be blessed. If the skies were clear, it meant an extended winter was in the forecast.
In the U.S., Groundhog Day dates back to the 18th and 19th centuries. Pennsylvania German settlers pulled the tradition from European weather lore that used the appearance of hibernators, like badgers, as a sign it was time to prepare for spring. The Pennsylvanian German folk had to work with their surroundings, and so they decided on the groundhog to replace the traditional European animals.
Punxsutawney Groundhog Club records date back to 1887.
Legend has it that Phil is the only Pennsylvania groundhog to have predicted winter’s length, though the lifespan of a groundhog is around just six years. However, according to the Punxsutawney Groundhog Club, Phil takes “one sip every summer” of a top-secret “elixir of life,” which extends his lifespan by seven years.
Punxsutawney Phil is protected and cared for by the Groundhog Club. The president of this group is the individual who gets the privilege of hearing Phil’s prediction in “Groundhogese” and translating it for the public.