After a week of bone-chilling cold in the US, the world's most famous groundhog, Punxsutawney Phil, has given people cause for hope by predicting the arrival of an early spring.
In a tradition stretching back more than 130 years, the groundhog was coaxed from his burrow at Gobblers Knob in the western Pennsylvania town of Punxsutawney, population 5500.
If it is sunny and Phil sees his shadow and rushes back into his burrow, it is said that winter will run for another full six weeks; if, on the other hand, he does not see his shadow, custom dictates that the US will have an early spring.
The furry creature did not see his shadow on Saturday (local time), meaning a warm spring is on the horizon, the Punxsutawney Groundhog Club said on Twitter.
Punxsutawney, like a huge swathe of the US Midwest and east, has been in the grip of a polar vortex that has claimed lives, interrupted transport and led to the closure of schools.
The temperature in the town plunged this week to -21degC. The weather is warming, however, and Punxsutawney was expected to be above freezing on Saturday.
Thousands of spectators gathered in the early hours of the morning for the event in temperatures of -10degC, ignoring the warning from the US weather service that Phil has "no predictive skill".