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It’s Official: Punxsutawney Phil Predicts More Weeks of Winter

February 2, 1996

PUNXSUTAWNEY, Pa. (AP) _ Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow. That’s the message of the nation’s premiere groundhog, Punxsutawney Phil, who ``saw″ his shadow at Groundhog Day ceremonies today.

At 7:28 a.m., handler Bill Deeley yanked Phil from the fake tree stump that serves as his burrow as fireworks went off to simulate a sunrise. Clouds obscured the real sun.

A crowd of about 10,000 gathered in zero-degree weather at Gobbler’s Knob greeted the prediction with boos and hisses.

``I was a bit disappointed, especially after the winter that we’ve had already,″ said Jim Halloran of Pittsburgh.

Many Pennsylvania communities have gotten record-breaking snow accumulations this season. Melting snow and rain caused flooding throughout the state last month. And much of the state is under a winter storm watch today.

Members of the Inner Circle, the local group that claims to communicate with Phil but really makes the shadow-no shadow decision in advance, say that he is always correct.

``Long before man invented the barometer, groundhogs were predicting the weather,″ Inner Circle president Bud Dunkel said. ``In fact, Phil’s great-grandfather saw his shadow thousands of years ago and the dinosaurs should have listened.″

Groundhog Day tourism in this western Pennsylvania town has grown markedly in recent years, spurred in part by the 1993 hit movie ``Groundhog Day.″ In 1984, fewer than 1,000 people showed up to find out if Phil saw his shadow.

This year, Phil even has a web site on the Internet. (The address: http://www.ivory.lm.com/(tilde symbol)donnpat/grhogday.html)

To tone down the wildness of the crowd, local officials this year banned alcohol.

``We’ll have trash cans all around, and State Police will ask people to throw out any alcohol before entering Gobbler’s Knob,″ Steele said before the ceremony at the small hill in a town park.

According to the old legend, if Phil doesn’t see his shadow, spring is just around the corner, but if he does, everyone faces six more weeks of winter.

Of course most groundhogs don’t venture out of their holes Feb. 2. Almost all of them are hibernating, unlike Phil, who lives in a heated burrow with two pals at the local library.

One more groundhog tidbit, from Jerry Zeidler, a Pennsylvania Game Commission supervisor: ``They are very good eating. It can be quite delicious if prepared properly.″

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