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Unvexed by Snowstorm or Pandemic, Groundhogs Go Online for Annual Forecast

What to Know

  • The spectacle that is Groundhog Day at Gobbler’s Knob in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, and Staten Island Zoo are all virtual this year
  • The event has its origin in a German legend that says if a furry rodent casts a shadow on Feb. 2, winter continues. If not, spring comes early

Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor pandemic stays Punxsutawney Phil from emerging from his burrow to forecast whether there will be six more weeks of winter or an early spring.

The spectacle that is Groundhog Day at Gobbler’s Knob in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, will still go on but because of the coronavirus pandemic, revelers won’t be able to see him and celebrate in person: This year, it’s all virtual.

Beginning at 6:30 a.m. EST Tuesday, people can log on and listen to winter- and spring-inspired Spotify playlists while learning how to make Wigle Whiskey cocktails and at-home crafts, including the official cookie of Groundhog Day.

Then of course, the prognosticator of prognosticators — assisted by his Inner Circle — will emerge at dawn, either to find his shadow or not. If he sees it? Six more weeks of winter. If he doesn’t, spring comes early.

The livestream from Gobbler’s Knob, a tiny hill just outside Punxsutawney about 65 miles northeast of Pittsburgh, is made possible by the Pennsylvania Tourism Office’s Holi-stay PA. The event there — always Feb. 2 — dates back to 1887.

With flakes falling since Sunday evening, the National Weather Service said more than 13 inches of snow had fallen in Manhattan’s Central Park as of 1 p.m., and as much as 16 inches was reported in northern New Jersey. NBC New York team coverage.

“Whether you’re hoping for six more weeks of winter fun or an early spring, we could all use some extra happiness this year,” said department spokesperson Carrie Lepore in a release.

Phil this year, like many years in the past, will be giving his forecast during a major snowstorm that’s hitting the entire Northeast.

The annual event has its origin in a German legend about a furry rodent. Records dating to the late 1800s show Phil has predicted longer winters more than 100 times. The 2020 forecast called for an early spring — however, Phil didn’t say anything about a pandemic.

Punxsutawney Phil may be the most famous groundhog seer but he’s certainly not the only one. There are two other high-profile “imposters,” as the Punxsutawney Groundhog Club calls them, in the region.

Staten Island Chuck will be asked for his prophecy Tuesday around 8 a.m. at the Staten Island Zoo in New York. That event will be streamed on Facebook since the zoo is closed.

Also without fanfare, Chuckles, Connecticut’s official state groundhog, will make a prediction from home: the Lutz Children’s Museum in Manchester. That will also be streamed on Facebook. Chuckles X died in September, and it remains to be seen whether an anointed Chuckles XI will emerge Tuesday.

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