Shortly after this year’s prediction was revealed, one of the members of the inner circle shared a message he said Phil had told him earlier in the day: “After winter, you’re looking forward to one of the most beautiful and brightest springs you’ve ever seen.”
Because of the coronavirus pandemic, revelers weren’t able to see Phil and celebrate in person: This year, it was all virtual and included cardboard cutouts to represent spectators.
A live stream, which had more than 15,000 viewers at one point, played footage from previous Groundhog Day’s ahead of the big reveal.
Then, of course, the famous furball emerged at dawn. The lore goes that if he sees his shadow as he did this year, there will be six more weeks of winter. If he doesn’t, spring comes early.
Wearing top hats, members of the club summoned Phil from a new tree stump.
“You look beautiful,” club president Jeff Lundy told Phil, who directed members to one of two scrolls.
A club member announced, “We have all passed through the darkness of night, but now see hope in morning’s bright light. But now when I turn to see, there’s a perfect shadow cast of me.”
The event Gobbler’s Knob, a tiny hill just outside Punxsutawney about 65 miles northeast of Pittsburgh — always February 2 — dates back to 1887.
This year, like many years in the past, Phil gave his forecast during a major snowstorm that hit the entire Northeast.
The annual event has its origin in a German legend about a furry rodent. Records dating to the late 1800s show Phil has predicted longer winters more than 100 times. The 2020 forecast called for an early spring — however, Phil didn’t say anything about a pandemic.
In its 135-year history, Phil has predicted winter 106 times and spring 20 times, the club said. Ten years were lost because no records were kept. As far as accuracy is concerned, he doesn’t have a great track record. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reports that in the past 10 years, he has correctly predicted an early or late spring 50 percent of the time.
Punxsutawney Phil may be the most famous groundhog seer, but he’s not the only one. There are two other high-profile “impostors,” as the Punxsutawney Groundhog Club calls them, in the region.
Connecticut marked Groundhog Day with a hedgehog making the prediction after the state’s official groundhog, Chuckles X, died last year. Like Phil, Phoebe predicted six more weeks of winter after seeing her shadow at the Lutz Children’s Museum in Manchester.
New York City’s Staten Island Chuck disagreed, predicting an early spring in a video shown on the Staten Island Zoo’s Facebook page.