U.S. groundhog Punxsutawney Phil predicts six more weeks of winter

By Elizabeth Daley PUNXSUTAWNEY, Pa. (Reuters) - Punxsutawney Phil, the groundhog famous for his weather predictions, saw his shadow after emerging from his burrow atop Gobbler’s Knob in western Pennsylvania on Monday, forecasting six more weeks of winter. Phil's prediction came at about 7:25 a.m. in the borough of Punxsutawney, where some in his audience chanted "six more weeks, six more weeks" as they waited. Legend has it that if the groundhog sees his shadow, North America will experience six more weeks of winter - and if he does not, spring will come early. "Six more weeks of winter means more potential for snow days so I am not exactly heartbroken," said Robin Amador, 39, an educator from Lorain, Ohio. "I could kiss that little guy for that." The history of groundhogs, also known as woodchucks, as weather prognosticators in the United States dates to the 1800s, according to the Punxsutawney Groundhog Club. Various Groundhog Day celebrations are held throughout the United States. But Phil's burrow in Punxsutawney, memorably depicted in the 1993 Bill Murray film "Groundhog Day," is the center of the celebration. Each year on Feb. 2, the borough of about 6,000 people swells to as many as 30,000 revelers, who come decked out in groundhog hats and scarves and holding signs begging for winter's hasty exit. Hank Zaborniak, 29, used the occasion to propose to his girlfriend, Jaquelynn Kestner, 31. "He said he wouldn't mind spending the rest of his life with me or the same day over and over," the Ohio woman said, alluding to the plot of Murray's film. Other rodent forecasters contradicted Phil. In Wisconsin, Jimmy the Groundhog bit the ear of Sun Prairie Mayor Jon Freund as the rodent whispered a prediction that, tradition has it, only the mayor can understand. Freund told the crowd Jimmy predicted spring is on the way. New York officials tried a new approach at snowy, slushy Staten Island Zoo. A groundhog bit the hand of the previous mayor, Michael Bloomberg, in 2009. Last year, Mayor Bill de Blasio dropped a groundhog, which died a few days later. This time, a specially built rodent-sized elevator lifted the groundhog called Staten Island Chuck into what zoo officials called "an innovative Groundhog Day viewing unit": a box with clear plastic sides and fake turf. Despite the shadows cast by the halogen lights pointing at the groundhog, the creature's handlers had warmer news than that coming out of Pennsylvania. "Spring is coming," the mayor announced, looking relieved. (Additional reporting by Brendan O'Brien in Milwaukee, Wisconsin and Jonathan Allen in New York; Editing by Will Dunham)