Six more weeks of Winter predicted

Punxsutawney Phil may be one of the most famous weather forecasters in the nation, but he may not be one of the most accurate.

By German tradition, if a hibernating animal sees its shadow on Feb. 2, then winter will last six more weeks. If the animal does not see his shadow, then an early spring is right around the corner. This year, after the groundhog saw his shadow and predicted six more weeks of winter, Phil decided to try a different approach to notifying eager followers about spring’s unfortunate delay— by text message.

About two hours after his prediction, the groundhog’s inaugural stab at text messaging appeared. Phil also sent a Twitter update at about that time. The Punxsutawney Groundhog Club’s official Web site made it possible for anyone to sign up for a notification.

Though the groundhog predicted six more weeks of winter, local forecasters said Phil’s predictions just do not stand up.

Steve Hillberg, director of the Midwestern Regional Climate Center and meteorologist at WILL Radio, said he does not put much faith in any groundhog— texting, tweeting or otherwise.

“It’s a gimmick. The prediction is right about 40 percent of the time. You would do better with a coin toss,” Hillberg said. “It’s fun, and I love the movie (“Groundhog Day”), but it’s not reliable.”

According to the National Weather Service, this year’s spring equinox is not until March 20, and in the Champaign area, residents can expect temperatures as low as 22 degrees this week.

If Punxsutawney Phil’s prediction is correct, it will be pure chance. Either way, with an entire year before the next prediction, the groundhog can take a break from tweeting for awhile.

The Associated Press contributed to this report