NewsNation’s meteorologist Gerard Jebaily is live in the heat of the action at “Gobbler’s Knob” in western Pennsylvania on Thursday where super-fans gathered from all corners of the country to watch Phil make his prediction.
The German legend of the beloved rodent, who is thought to be more than 130 years old, is simple. If the groundhog sees his shadow, it signals six more weeks of winter. If Punxsutawney Phil doesn’t, winter will end sooner rather than later.
Members of Punxsutawney Phil’s “inner circle” will summon him from his tree stump at dawn to learn if he has seen his shadow.
The “inner circle” is a group of local dignitaries who are responsible for planning the events, as well as feeding and caring for Phil himself.
Traditions and celebrations have sprouted up around the legend that include a trek to “Gobblers Knob” where Phil makes his prediction, all-night parties and even weddings and pageants. While the groundhog’s predictions aren’t always accurate from a meteorological perspective, the sense of community steeped in tradition that’s grown around the annual event overshadows accuracy.
The first known record of Groundhog Day, which originated from a German legend, was in a local paper in 1886 in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania. Since 1887, Phil has seen his shadow 105 times, indicating there is a long winter in store, according to the NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information. Phil has predicted an early spring only 20 times and there is no record for 10 years.
While Punxsutawney Phil may be the most famous groundhog seer, he’s certainly not the only one. New York City’s Staten Island Chuck will also make his prediction Thursday during an event at the Staten Island Zoo.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.