The Free Press, Mankato, MN

State, national news

February 2, 2014

Handlers: Punxsutawney Phil predicts longer winter

PUNXSUTAWNEY, Pa. — Emerging from his lair on Super Bowl Sunday, groundhog Punxsutawney Phil couldn't predict the winner of the big game but his handlers said he was sure of his weather forecast: There will be six more weeks of winter.

Pennsylvania's famed groundhog was roused from slumber at 7:28 a.m. Sunday and, according to the Punxsutawney Groundhog Club, directed handler Bill Deeley to a scroll that contained the prediction — along with a Super Bowl reference.

As usual, thousands of fans turned out on Groundhog Day to see the furry rodent, the most famous of a small group of groundhogs said to forecast the weather.

Legend has it that if the groundhog sees his shadow on Feb. 2, winter will last another month-and-a-half. If he doesn't see it, spring will come early.

In reality, Phil's prediction is decided ahead of time by a group called the Inner Circle, whose members don top hats and tuxedos for the annual ceremony on Gobbler's Knob, the tiny hill in the town for which he's named about 65 miles northeast of Pittsburgh.

The prediction fell on Super Bowl Sunday for the first time. The closest the game previously came to coinciding with Groundhog Day was in 2009, when the just-down-the-road Pittsburgh Steelers defeated the Arizona Cardinals 27-23 the night before Phil's forecast.

This year's NFL championship pitting the Seattle Seahawks and Denver Broncos at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J., will be the Super Bowl's 48th installment, while Phil has been predicting the weather since 1886.

In a nod to the game, Phil's forecast came in the form of a Super Bowl-themed poem:

"A Super Bowl winner I will not predict,

But my weather forecast, you cannot contradict,

That's not a football lying beside me

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