By Charles McChesney
West-central Pennsylvania’s biggest celebrity saw his shadow Monday morning. According to tradition – and the Punxsutawney Groundhog Club – that means winter will last another six weeks.
At least he didn’t predict six more weeks of January.
Central New Yorkers have survived snowier, colder Januarys. But January 2009 had a brutal consistency.
The average temperature was 18.2 degrees. The temperature stayed below freezing for all but six days and dropped well below freezing every night.
Temperatures were in the 40s for a total of seven hours all month. That heat wave lasted from 1 to 8 p.m. Jan. 23.
Snow was even more constant. Only three days had no snow, according to National Weather Service records. For 26 days, there was enough snow to measure. Two days saw a trace.
Only January 1977 was more consistently snowy, according to Keith Eggleston at the Northeast Regional Climate Center at Cornell University. That year, it snowed every day of the month – a measurable amount on 28 days.
January 1977 was colder, too. The average temperature was 15.7 degrees, but that’s not the record. January 1994 averaged 12.6 degrees. Cold as it was, January 2009 was just the eighth coldest since record keeping began at Syracuse’s Hancock Airport in 1950.
Snowy as it was, the month saw just the ninth most snow recorded in a January. Its 49.8 inches of snow is far behind the 78.1 inches that fell in January 2004.
Now, if you happen to be looking for a prediction from someone other than the largest member of the squirrel family, the weather service’s long-range February forecast calls for above-normal precipitation in Central New York but doesn’t see a trend either way for colder or warmer temperatures.
However, even before Punxsutawney Phil stuck his head out Monday morning, February had brought some relief. On Sunday, the first day of February, temperatures at Hancock were 40 or above for 10 hours, according to weather service records.