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Phil says six more wintry weeks
PUNXSUTAWNEY, Pa. -- If you're tired of winter, Punxsutawney Phil had a message for you Monday -- get used to it.
After a rap on an oak stump roused him from his home on Gobbler's Knob, the world's most famous furry forecaster "saw" his shadow this chilly Groundhog Day morning, which according to tradition means six more weeks of winter.
Phil even included a topical reference in his proclamation -- to the capture of Saddam Hussein.
"I'm glad I live in this luxurious burrow on the knob, and not in a dirty, smelly, spider hole like a slob," said the proclamation read aloud by one of the organizers. "When I come out, I don't want to negotiate; but to just do my job and prognosticate."
Boos to winter
The prediction drew boos from thousands who gathered in 17-degree weather for the 118th annual festivity run by the Punxsutawney Groundhog Club.
The spirited crowd, some clad in furry groundhog hats or even full-length costumes, chanted "Phil! Phil! Phil!" after fireworks and a long night of rock music drew to an end and the hour of the ceremony neared.
Including Monday's prediction, the groundhog is reported to have seen his shadow 104 times since the tradition began in Punxsutawney. It is rooted in a German superstition that if a hibernating animal casts a shadow Feb. 2 -- the Christian holiday of Candlemas -- winter will last another six weeks. If no shadow is seen, legend says spring will come early.
People from as far away as England descended on this small town to shake the winter doldrums.
Mike and Anne Castledine, a retired couple from Derbyshire, England, caught groundhog fever after seeing the Bill Murray movie "Groundhog Day," and just wanted to experience it for themselves.
"We were quite hooked once we'd seen the movie," Anne Castledine said Sunday.
What Groundhog Day entails is a lot of revelry, although alcohol has been banned from Gobbler's Knob, the site just outside town where Punxsutawney Phil appears.
"We couldn't care less if he sees his shadow," said Bill Cooper, president of the Punxsutawney Groundhog Club. "It's a people holiday."
Punxsutawney Phil is perhaps the most watched on Groundhog Day, but he certainly isn't alone among marmot meteorologists. More than a dozen states celebrate the day with their own critters, including Dixie Dan in Mississippi, Buckeye Chuck in Ohio and Gen. Beauregard Lee in Georgia.
Even Pennsylvania has a competing ceremony. About 165 miles to the southeast, the Slumbering Groundhog Lodge of Quarryville has been forecasting with the animals since 1908.