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Malverne Mel, Holtsville Hal don't see shadows, call for early spring

Malverne Mel is handled by his caretaker, Andre

Malverne Mel is handled by his caretaker, Andre Ricaud, as Mayor Patricia Norris-McDonald speaks during the 19th Malverne Groundhog Day celebration Sunday, Feb. 2, 2014, at the village gazebo on Church Street. Credit: Barry Sloan

It was the battle of the groundhogs Sunday morning as Long Island's two furry forecasters did not see their shadows and called for an early spring, while their more famous brethren had opposite predictions.

Malverne Mel and Holtsville Hal's forecast runs counter to Staten Island Chuck and Punxsutawney Phil, which saw their shadows, signifying six more weeks of winter.

Brookhaven Town Highway Supervisor Daniel Losquadro, who read Hal's prognostication at the Brookhaven Town Wildlife and Ecology Center Animal Preserve, said afterward that the early morning fog may have prevented Hal from seeing his shadow.

"We're very, very happy that we had an overcast [sky]," Losquadro said with a laugh.

A groundhog handler showed off Holtsville Hal on stage for about 10 minutes, until the announcement was made: Hal had not seen his shadow.

The hundreds in the crowd erupted in cheers.

"I'm hoping it's true," said Madeline Miles, 40. "Last year he said we had six weeks of winter left and we got slammed."

Miles, who brought her daughter Grace, 7, to see the prediction live, shortly after sunrise, said although she was born, reared and still lives in Holtsville, she's never gotten used to the cold winters.

At the gazebo on Church Street in Malverne, Mel watcher Kaitlyn Scialo, 6, of North Valley Stream, had tied on a shirt that read, "Keep calm and trust Mel."

So it was no surprise that she and her grandmother, Pam Scialo, 53, were ecstatic when Mel didn't see his shadow. He, too, emerged in the fog.

"We're so happy there was an early spring," Pam Scialo said.

The Scialos aren't alone in that sentiment, as Long Islanders just endured a January of extremes -- of roller-coaster temperature shifts, of bouts of brutal cold, and of bursts of snow.

Expect more of the same for six more weeks, according to Staten Island Chuck, New York City's resident celebrity groundhog, and Pennsylvania's nationally known Punxsutawney Phil.

Both groundhogs saw their shadows Sunday.

"We're prepared for whatever the rest of this winter throws at us," Losquadro said.

"We respect Hal's prognostication, but we hope for the best and plan for the worst."


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