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Record crowd expected for Holtsville Hal's forecast

When local groundhog Holtsville Hal emerges from his burrow at precisely 7:25 a.m. this morning, a record number of spectators is expected to be watching, said promoter Wayne Carrington.

Last year, about 650 people showed up to the event, which is held at the The Holtsville Ecology Site and Wildlife Preserve. Thanks in part to a pleasant weather forecast, he anticipates that number will rise to at least 1,200 today.

Hal has seen his shadow each of the last three years. In weather lore, if a groundhog sees his shadow, winter weather will continue for another six weeks.

Unlike Hal, Long Island's other groundhog, Malverne Mel, has not seen his shadow since 2005.

Mel will emerge at the Reese Park Gazebo on Church Street near the Long Island Rail Road tracks in Malverne at 7 a.m.

The groundhogs' forecast might be just as accurate as the National Weather Service.

There are "pretty much equal chances of temperatures being above or below normal" for the next month, said Bill Goodman, a National Weather Service meteorologist in Upton.

"There's no clear signal from our climate predictors about how this spring is going to fare."

But Goodman did say cloud cover today could affect the groundhogs' ability to see their shadows.

"He might wake up and say, 'I don't know either,'" Goodman said.

Staff writer Michael Amon contributed to this story. THE FORECAST (Predicted by humans at the National Weather Service) TODAY Partly sunny, chance of rain and snow later in the day, low 27. TOMORROW Snow likely, winds 15-17 mph, low 18. WEDNESDAY Chance of snow, low 13.

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