Phil doesn't see shadow, predicts an early spring

PUNXSUTAWNEY, Pa. — A new pair of hands pulled Punxsutawney
Phil from his stump this year, so it was only fitting that the
groundhog offered a new prediction.

Phil did not see his shadow on Friday which, according to German
folklore, means folks can expect an early spring instead of six
more weeks of winter.

Since 1886, Phil has seen his shadow 96 times, hasn't seen it 14
times and there are no records for nine years, according to the
Punxsutawney Groundhog Club.

The last time Phil failed to see his
shadow was in 1999.

More than 15,000 revelers milled about in a misty snow waiting
for the prediction, as fireworks exploded overhead and the
``Pennsylvania Polka'' and other music blared in the background.

Longtime handler Bill Deeley retired after more than a dozen
years and was replaced Friday by Punxsutawney Groundhog Club Inner
Circle members John Griffiths and Ben Hughes.

Each Feb. 2, thousands of people descend on Punxsutawney, a town
of about 6,100 people about 65 miles northeast of Pittsburgh, to
celebrate what had essentially been a German superstition.

The Germans believed that if a hibernating animal cast a shadow
on Feb. 2 — the Christian holiday of Candlemas — winter would last
another six weeks. If no shadow was seen, legend said spring would
come early.