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Groundhog Day 2022: Punxsutawney Phil sees his shadow

Rob Tornoe
The Philadelphia Inquirer (TNS)

PHILADELPHIA — Snow was still on the ground Wednesday in the Philadelphia region, and Punxsutawney Phil doesn’t expect things to change for the next six weeks.

The nation’s most popular marmot saw his shadow Wednesday morning after scurrying out of a burrow at Gobbler’s Knob in Punxsutawney. As the legend goes, that means the country can expect below-average temperatures for the next six weeks.

After the pandemic limited crowds last year, tens of thousands of people gathered in the small western Pennsylvania town to watch the ceremony, hosted by the Punxsutawney Groundhog Club.

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How accurate has Punxsutawney Phil been over the years?

Last year, Punxsutawney Phil predicted six more weeks of winter by seeing his shadow. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Phil was somewhat right — the contiguous United States did see below average temperatures in February but experienced above average temperatures in March.

Groundhog Club handler A.J. Dereume holds Punxsutawney Phil, the weather prognosticating groundhog, during the 136th celebration of Groundhog Day on Gobbler's Knob in Punxsutawney, Pa., Wednesday, Feb. 2, 2022. Phil's handlers said that the groundhog has forecast six more weeks of winter. (AP Photo/Barry Reeger)

Unfortunately, Phil hasn’t been all that accurate over the years.

Since 1887, Phil and his predecessors have predicted more winter 104 times and called for 20 early springs, according to Stormfax Almanac (no records exist for nine years). Live Science did an analysis of the data and concluded Phil’s six-week predictions have been correct just 39% of the time.

Over the last 10 years, Phil has been accurate 40% of the time, according to NOAA, nailing his prediction in 2020, 2016, 2014 and 2013.

Groundhog Club handler A.J. Dereume holds Punxsutawney Phil, the weather prognosticating groundhog, during the 136th celebration of Groundhog Day on Gobbler's Knob in Punxsutawney, Pa., Wednesday, Feb. 2, 2022. Phil's handlers said that the groundhog has forecast six more weeks of winter. (AP Photo/Barry Reeger)

Why ask the groundhog? How did this whole marmot-predicting-the-weather thing start?

According to the Pennsylvania Tourism Office, Romans took the early Christian holiday Candlemas to Germany, where it was said that if there was enough sun on Candlemas Day for a badger to cast a shadow, there would be six more weeks of bad weather.

German immigrants brought this tradition to Pennsylvania, and in 1886 the editor of Punxsutawney’s newspaper teamed up with a group of groundhog hunters to begin the legend of Punxsutawney Phil’s weather prowess. So in the United States and Canada, we celebrate Groundhog Day on the same date Christians across the globe celebrate Candlemas.

The movie: While filming ‘Groundhog Day,’ Bill Murray was terrorized by the actor playing Phil.

“A co-star that bites you once, well, I can accept that. But a co-star that bites you twice, well now, that’s a problem.”

That was Bill Murray in a 1993 interview with the Inquirer discussing his experience on the set of "Groundhog Day," where he was bitten multiple times by his hairy co-star, Scooter. Recalling the experience, Murray was so bitter he struggled to remember the little critter’s name.

“Hell, I don’t remember the little [jerk’s] name,” Murray said as he grew mock serious. “Let it suffice to say I will never, ever, make another major motion picture with him again. And I mean that.”

Gloria McGowan of Williamsport, Ind., (center) watches the festivities while waiting for Punxsutawney Phil, the weather prognosticating groundhog, to come out and make his prediction during the 136th celebration of Groundhog Day on Gobbler's Knob in Punxsutawney, Pa., Wednesday, Feb. 2, 2022. (AP Photo/Barry Reeger)

Murray said he wanted the actual Punxsutawney Phil to appear in the movie after meeting him a few years earlier, but after filmmakers decided not to film there for logistical reasons (choosing instead Woodstock, Illinois), Punxsutawney founding fathers played hardball and banned Phil from appearing in the movie.

“Phil was fabulous,” Murray recalled. “He’s treated like royalty and is very well-behaved. A true professional. And so when they couldn’t get him — a creature who has been hand-raised since birth and is very tame — what did they do? They went out into the wood and caught this Scooter, a groundhog who hated my guts from day one.”

Of course, Murray survived the shoot, and "Groundhog Day" has become a beloved classic comedy that fans return to each February. At the time, Murray said his comedies bothered him because they lacked political subtext, but he came around when fans would thank him for providing some laughs.

“Being funny, I’ve realized, is my function,” Murray said. “And if I have to accomplish this by being terrorized by a mad hedgehog, hey, so be it.”