By Elizabeth Daley
PUNXSUTAWNEY, Pennsylvania (Reuters) - Punxsutawney Phil, a famed U.S. groundhog with an even more famous shadow, huddled in his burrow on Sunday as winter lovers and haters waited for him to emerge and signal how much longer frigid weather will last.
The rotund rodent is scheduled to exit his subterranean residence at Gobblers Knob in the western Pennsylvania town of Punxsutawney at 7:20 a.m. on Groundhog Day, according to groundhog.org.
If Phil sees his shadow - the legend goes - there will be six more weeks of snow and freezing temperatures. If he does not, we can expect an early spring.
The Sunday forecast from Weather.com is for snow showers and temperatures ranging between 16 and 34 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 8 and 1 Celsius).
The annual event, made even more popular by the 1993 film comedy "Groundhog Day" starring Bill Murray, draws thousands of faithful followers from as far away as Australia and Russia.
Groundhogs have been offering weather predictions in the tiny town since 1887. After the movie was released, record crowds numbering as high as 30,000 have been drawn to the event, the website says.
With a shadow powerful enough to lift spirits - or dash them - Phil has met with Pennsylvania governors and appeared on national television talk shows and New York City's Times Square JumboTron. In 1986, he even traveled to Washington to meet with President Ronald Reagan, groundhog.org said.
Phil's busy schedule is packed into the months before groundhogs, also called woodchucks, go into hibernation - usually after the first frost, according to NationalGeographic.com.
Hibernation is less like a deep sleep and more like a coma, with the groundhog's heart rate plunging, blood scarcely flowing, body temperature dropping to a few degrees above freezing and breathing nearly stopped, said groundhog.org.
Groundhog Day festivities for fans unable to make the trip to Punxsutawney can be seen on www.groundhog.org, and will be carried live on the Pennsylvania network PCN.
(Editing by Barbara Goldberg, Gunna Dickson and Steve Orlofsky)