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Staten Island Chuck Predicts Early Spring

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The warmer than usual winter is here to stay, according to at least one furry prognosticator.

The city's most famous groundhog, Charles G. Hogg, or Staten Island Chuck as he is known to many, made his annual prediction this morning at the Staten Island Zoo.

And because he did not see his shadow, the city should be in for an early spring.

His prediction may not come as much of a surprise given the lack of snow and mild temperatures so far this winter.

At this time last year, the city had received about five feet of snow.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who gets up and close and personal with Chuck every year, took no chances this time around, donning giant gloves. Three years ago, Chuck bit the mayor's hand but was gentler this time around.

"As far as groundhogs go groundhogs generally aren't really friendly animals. But as you can see he's really friendly, very active he's a lot of fun," said Chuck's handler, Peter Laline.

"I didn't want him to see his shadow because I like the summer," said one local youngster who watched Chuck emerge.

"I knew he wasn't going to see his shadow because it's hot out," said another.

Zoo organizers say Chuck has been right about 80 percent of the time. This year, students from PS 52 will be tracking the weather every day to see just how accurate his prediction is.

"The scientific formula if you will, how it's done is, you calculate the number of days between Groundhog Day and the first day of spring and if the majority of them are above 40 - which is considered above the normal temperatures for the winter - then Chuck is correct," explained Ken Mitchel of the Staten Island Zoo.

Meantime, over in Pennsylvania, Punxsutawney Phil countered Chuck's claim that spring is on its way.

He saw his shadow outside his home at Gobbler's Knob near Pittsburgh.

As they are here, temperatures in Punxsutawney are unseasonably warm.

Phil's prediction is determined ahead of time by a group called the Inner Circle, who try to predict a long-range forecast for the season.

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