February 2, 2006

CORRECTED: Groundhog’s ruling: six more weeks of winter

(Please read in sixth paragraph ...Johnston said... instead
of ...Johnson said...)

A corrected version follows:

PUNXSUTAWNEY, Pennsylvania (Reuters) - Punxsutawney Phil,
the groundhog who fans claim is never wrong, predicted six more
weeks of winter on Thursday, matching the forecast of
professional meteorologists.

"Phil is incapable of error. If he says six more weeks of
winter, you can take it to the bank," said Mike Johnston, one
of the 15 members of the Groundhog Club Inner Circle in
Punxsutawney, site of the annual Groundhog Day ceremony.

According to legend, when the rodent emerges from
hibernation on February 2 and sees his shadow, it means six
more weeks of winter. If he does not see his shadow, spring is

Punxsutawney has celebrated Groundhog Day since 1887, as
depicted in 1993 movie "Groundhog Day" starring Bill Murray.

Punxsutawney Phil's staged emergence came before a crowd of
estimated between 12,000 to 15,000 spectators in the
east-central Pennsylvania town.

The club's claim of 100 percent accuracy for the groundhog
comes with a loophole. "He's not saying there will be six more
weeks of winter in Chicago or Philadelphia or Cleveland, but
there will be somewhere," Johnston said.

Private forecaster MDA EarthSat Energy Weather on Wednesday
updated its 30- to 60-day forecast and called for a cold
February in the Eastern part of the United States, starting
next week. Weather in January was unseasonably mild.

Forecasts of a colder-than-normal winter have supported
strong heating oil prices as the Northeast, where 80 percent of
the nation's fuel is consumed.

There are 19 known rivals to Punxsutawney Phil. New York's
Staten Island Chuck differed with Phil by calling for an end to

Johnston's response? "It's a touchy subject. We want to be
civil. Let's just say imitation is the sincerest form of