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Recent Weather Notwithstanding, Phil Predicts Early Spring

7:30 AM EST, February 2, 2013

By WeatherBug Meteorologists

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Today is Groundhog Day and a Punxsutawney Phil did NOT see his shadow, so according to tradition; there will be an early spring.

The temperature was a bone-chilling 8 degrees with a wind chill of minus-6 degrees when Phil was rustled out of his burrow at 7:25 a.m. EST and did NOT see his shadow.

The tradition is to bring Phil out of his burrow at Gobbler`s Knob on the morning of Feb. 2, a holiday celebrating the midpoint of winter known as Candlemas Day. If the groundhog sees his shadow, there will be six more weeks of winter. However, if Phil doesn`t see his shadow, winter is said to come to an abrupt end and spring is here. The forecast is communicated to his handlers - - who apparently speak groundhog - - who then pass this on to the world.

The tradition of Groundhog Day has its origins in European folklore where a badger or bear were used to forecast the upcoming spring. The Pennsylvanian Germans found U.S. groundhogs to be a worthy substitute and the tradition took hold in the United States during the 18th and 19th centuries. In the late 1880s, with a combined effort of a Pennsylvania newspaper editor and American congressman, the yearly festival in Punxsutawney and the February 2nd holiday were officially designated, and Groundhog Day has been celebrated ever since.

By the way, if you are a fan of trivia, here`s a little furry-weather-forecaster information: "Punxsutawney" means "town of sandflies" in the Delaware Indian language. Also, the groundhog is the same animal as the woodchuck, whose Latin name is "Marmota monax"; the name woodchuck is believed to come from "wojak," the Indian word for the animal. Since records have been kept, professional weather researchers have tracked Phil`s accuracy, and found him to be correct about 39 percent of the time.

Since the first celebration in 1887, Phil has avoided his shadow 15 times, most recently in 2011. One-hundred other times he saw his shadow, and the other nine times, no record was taken. One year, 1942, he saw a "partial shadow," which was meant to keep our enemies during World War II from receiving any favorable weather forecasts they could use to their advantage.

Numerous other cities also have their own Groundhog Day mascots, including Raleigh, N.C., with Sir Walter Wally, Buckeye Chuck of Marion, Ohio, and General Beauregard Lee of Liliburn, Ga. Groundhog Day isn`t just an American tradition either, with Canada having its furry prognosticator, Wiarton Willy, giving the country a spring (or winter) forecast as well.

Be sure to keep WeatherBug active to receive the latest weather in your neighborhood and get the latest updates anywhere on Twitter at WeatherBug WeatherBuzz.

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Story Image: Punxsutawney Phil was rustled from his burrow at 7:25 a.m. EST this morning amidst a large crowd with a prediction of an early spring. (Keith Srakocic, AP)

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