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This morning, 25,000 people braved the early morning chill and made their way to Gobbler's Nob to see for themselves what Punxsutawney Phil had to say about the length of this year's frigid winter season. Unfortunately, the legendary woodchuck did not predict what most had been hoping for!
When the famous woodchuck was pulled out of his burrow by two handlers donned in tuxedos and top hats, he surveyed his surroundings carefully and to everyone's dismay, saw his shadow. This prompted one of Phil's handlers to loudly declare, 'A Super Bowl winner I will not predict, but my weather forecast you cannot contradict. That's not a football lying beside me, It's my shadow you see. So six more weeks of winter it shall be!'
And, he was not the only one. His competitor, the relatively young Staten Island Chuck, not only shocked his audience by leaping off from the hands of New York's newly elected Mayor, Bill de Blasio, but also claimed to have seen his shadow! Given that the two have a combined 114 years of weather predicting experience, should we trust their foresights and just resign to another month and a half of freezing weather?
That depends on who you ask. According to human weather experts, the legendary Phil has been right only 39% of the time during his 112-year long weather predicting career. However the folks at Punxsutawney beg to differ - They maintain that Phil has never been wrong. Chuck on the other hand, has an 80% accuracy rate that nobody seems to dispute. Having said that, both were wrong last year when they predicted an early spring! We will just have to wait until March 20th, the first official day of spring, to see if that is the case again.
Groundhog day was started by German settlers that came to Pennsylvania in the 18th and 19th century. Since then, the holiday is celebrated across the United States every February 2nd. While there are many groundhogs and even an armadillo (in Texas) that make weather predictions, Punxsutawney Phil is the most famous. That's because according to local folklore, Phil, kept alive by a magic potion, is 127 years old and has been predicting the weather for over 112 years. The little critter is also known internationally, thanks to his role in the 1993 movie, 'Groundhog Day'.
Groundhogs, also called woodchucks, land beavers or whistle pigs are the largest members of the squirrel family. They grow between 17-26 inches in length and can weigh up to 4lbs. With the exceptions of Phil and Chuck, these largely herbivorous animals have a lifespan of between 6-8 years in the wild.