Groundhog Day: Predicting spring's arrival, Super Bowl victor

Saturday, February 2nd 2002, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

PUNXSUTAWNEY, Pa. (AP) _ Punxsutawney Phil predicted six more weeks of winter Saturday but hedged his bets on the winner of this year's Super Bowl.

``I think he was indifferent,'' said Bill Cooper, president of the Punxsutawney Groundhog Club Inner Circle. ``What can I say? He's only a groundhog.''

A record crowd of at least 40,000 people braved the sunny but frigid morning to celebrate Groundhog Day at Gobbler's Knob. Concerns about rowdy drinkers coupled with the Sept. 11 attacks led to stepped-up security at Phil's home. For the first time ever, organizers sold all 38,000 bus tickets to the event.

German superstition holds that if an animal sees its shadow on Feb. 2 _ the Christian holiday of Candlemas _ then bad weather is in store. A shadow would mean six more weeks of winter.

Phil's handlers had announced in January that the groundhog would predict the outcome of Sunday's Super Bowl game. That was when the Pittsburgh Steelers were favored to win the AFC championship game, and the Philadelphia Eagles were playing for the NFC title. But both Pennsylvania teams lost, leaving the St. Louis Rams facing the New England Patriots in New Orleans.

Stam Zervanos, associate professor of biology at Penn State University's Berks-Lehigh Valley College in Reading, said the groundhog has an entirely different reason for emerging from his hole.

``They're going to mate, and they're going to go back into hibernation for about four weeks before they start feeding and having their young,'' Zervanos said.

At State College-based AccuWeather Inc., where science trumps superstition, meteorologists are predicting that February and March will be slightly colder than usual around the Great Lakes and for much of the East Coast, while above-normal temperatures are expected in northern plains.

In Punxsutawney, AccuWeather's long-range forecast calls for ``near to slightly below normal,'' Rayno said. ``I suspect that that translates into six more weeks of winter.''