Long winter in US? Groundhogs disagree

Punxsutawney Phil's handler Ron Ploucha introduces the groundhog to the crowd at Gobbler's Knob in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania yesterday. Punxsutawney Phil famous for his weather predictions, saw his shadow after emerging from his burrow atop Gobbler'
Punxsutawney Phil's handler Ron Ploucha introduces the groundhog to the crowd at Gobbler's Knob in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania yesterday. Punxsutawney Phil famous for his weather predictions, saw his shadow after emerging from his burrow atop Gobbler's Knob, forecasting six more weeks of winter. -- PHOTO: REUTERS

NEW YORK (AFP) - American meteorologists were in the hot seat last week for erroneously forecasting blizzards would shut down New York, but on Monday, it was groundhogs that clashed over the onset of spring.

It is one of the more bizarre folklore traditions still practised in parts of contemporary America: groundhogs that emerge from their burrows on Feb 2 indicate whether spring will come early.

Those who see their shadows spell six more weeks of winter.

And just like weather forecasters, furry marmots in the northeast couldn't agree which way the wind's blowing.

In Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, where the tradition has taken place since 1887, Phil the groundhog apparently saw his shadow and retreated back to his burrow, spelling six more weeks of winter.

"Forecasts abound on the Internet, but, I, Punxsutawney Phil am still your best bet," said Inner Circle of Punxsutawney president Bill Deeley, giving credit to the animal.

In Manchester, Connecticut, a second groundhog, Chuckles, also saw his shadow, corroborating Punxsutawney Phil's forecast.

But New York, where Mayor Bill de Blasio dropped a groundhog at last year's ceremony - which may or may not have contributed to the animal's death two weeks later - begged to differ.

The city's official groundhog Chuck predicted an early bloom, keeping his distance from the mayor.

"Chuck says early spring!" de Blasio said during a ceremony at Staten Island Zoo.

"Chuck, I want to thank you for this good news."