PUNXSUTAWNEY (AP) – The handlers for groundhog Punxsutawney Phil say he’s forecasting six more weeks of what already has felt like a brutally long and cold winter.

Pennsylvania’s famed groundhog emerged from his lair in front of thousands of fans around daybreak Sunday.

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Legend has it that if the furry rodent sees his shadow on Feb. 2, winter will last another month-and-a-half. If he doesn’t see it, spring will come early.

In reality, Phil’s prediction is decided ahead of time by a group called the Inner Circle, whose members don top hats and tuxedos for the ceremony on Groundhog Day each year.

Phil is the most famous of a small group of groundhogs said to forecast the weather, including Staten Island Chuck in New York and General Beauregard Lee in Atlanta.

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Last year, a prosecutor from neighboring Ohio light-heartedly filed a criminal indictment against Phil for fraudulently predicting an early spring.

Phil’s handlers, the Inner Circle, took the blame, saying they mistranslated his forecast, so the prosecutor relented with a pardon.

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