Punxsutawney Phil predicts an early spring

Sunday, 03 Feb, 2019

The following year brought the first official trek to Gobbler's Knob to get Phil's prediction.

Just before 7:30 a.m. Saturday, Punxsutawney Phil emerged from his burrow in Pennsylvania at sunrise and didn't see his shadow.

Tradition suggests that means spring is coming early.

Mother Nature hadn't been all that kind to the region as Groundhog Day approached. It's a tradition with deeper roots than you might have expected.

As the Midwest and East Coast try to recover from this week's risky Arctic blast, Pennsylvania's most famous groundhog was gearing up to reveal there would be some relief for the likes of Minnesota where -56F weather had brought air travel and road travel, the mail network, plus schools and businesses to a pause.

If he would have saw his shadow, winter would last for another six weeks. For centuries, the custom was to have the clergy bless candles and distribute them to the people.

Hollywood loves few things more than belated sequels and reboots, but they haven't gotten around to making another Groundhog Day.

Chattanooga Chuck, a distant cousin of our friend Phil, will make a similar, if less opulent, appearance Saturday morning at 10:30am at the Tennessee Aquarium's River Journey lobby.

In Punxsutawney, 1886 marked the first time that Groundhog Day appeared in the local newspaper. The first official trek to Gobbler's Knob was made February 2, 1887.

Other towns have their own groundhog mascots as well, including Birmingham Bill in Alabama and Staten Island Chuck in NY.

Other places have begun using their own groundhog to celebrate the holiday, including General Beauregard Lee of Atlanta, Dunkirk Dave of Dunkirk, New York, and Jimmy of Sun Prairie, Wisconsin.

Why's The Groundhog In The Ground Anyway?

Preparations for Groundhog Day 2019 began back on February 3, 2018 - right after Punxsutawney Phil issued his forecast of six more weeks of winter for that year.

Historically, they also ate groundhog meat, but this practice has since died out.

Phil's annual prediction draws thousands of revelers to the town of Punxsutawney, about 80 miles northeast of Pittsburgh, every year. His predictions were wrong in both 2017 and 2018.

Phil's skill is kind of like a coin flip - he's been accurate about 50 percent of the time, according to The Weather Channel.