STATEN ISLAND — Spring is coming soon!
Or at least that's what Staten Island Chuck, the beloved furry meteorologist, predicted during a Tuesday morning ceremony at the Staten Island Zoo.
"Spring is coming, we're going to have an early, early spring this year," said Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul, who filled in for Mayor Bill de Blasio at this year's ceremony.
Chuck's forecast matched his colleague's in Pennsylvania, Punxsutawney Phil, who predicted the same shorter winter.
Chuck was likely relieved this year when the mayor — who dropped the ceremonial groundhog during his first Feb. 2 as mayor in 2014 — announced he would be skipping out this year to campaign for Hillary Clinton in Iowa.
"There's no need to pray while the mayor is away," Staten Island Deputy Borough President Ed Burke said at the ceremony Tuesday.
The groundhog de Blasio dropped, later revealed to be a stand-in named Charlotte, died a week after the ceremony from injuries related to a fall, the New York Post reported.
A spokesman for the zoo said the groundhog had showed no signs of trauma or pain during a medical examination after the ceremony and the death was blamed on injuries received during the week of the event.
"I think if there were a groundhog union they would ask me to miss Groundhog Day, no question about it," de Blasio said last week. "If they were taking a vote, I would not be invited to Groundhog Day."
This year, Chuck was once again kept safe from being dropped by arriving at his ceremonial home via an elevator and was only picked up by his handler after his prediction.
At the ceremony, elected officials joked about the mayor's groundhog drop and invited District Attorney Michael McMahon to make sure it doesn't turn "into a crime scene," Burke said.
I "was called here specially because there had been rumors of foul play in the past," McMahon said. "I’m here to make sure that this is all done in a law-and-order fashion."
Chuck also celebrated his 35th year predicting the weather, with a better accuracy rating than his more famous counterpart in Pennsylvania.