Punxsutawney Phil and Chattanooga Chuck Both See Shadow

On Feb. 2 every year across the country, but especially in the Yankee north, people let a rodent tell them about the weather.

Groundhog Day celebrations began as a Pennsylvania German custom in middle-and-eastern Pennsylvania in the 18th and 19th centuries. It came out of ancient European weather folklore, in which a sacred badger or bear would prognosticate the weather. (Both animals hibernate in the winter.)

By the mid-19th century, records of Groundhog Day celebrations in America start popping up in the historic record. The first was a reference in a Pennsylvania man’s 1841 diary. A storekeeper named James Morris wrote of attended a groundhog celebration in Morgantown, Pa.

He did not say whether it saw its shadow.

One town, in particular, has turned it from a folksy ceremony into an all-night party and cottage industry: Punxsutawney, in northwest-central Pennsylvania. Winters are, to state it lightly, much, much colder, snowier and longer there. So maybe no surprise that it is a heavily Northern custom.

They hold a raucous, all-night party in the small town’s Barclay Square, complete with electric polka bands, and the warming powers of bratwurst and beer.

Here is a Facebook live feed of the short ceremony this morning. Phil can be seen in the last minute of the short video.

Because it’s likely Germanic roots, the more heavily German-settled areas, especially Pennsylvania, tend to see more celebrations of it.

However, one of the southern-most groundhog celebrations is in our back yard.

Chattanooga Chuck, who peeps out to test the weather every year in Chattanooga, is the only groundhog who predicts the weather in Tennessee. Unfortunately he, too, called for six more weeks of winter.

On the other hand, so far for Middle Tennessee this has been one of, if not the, mildest winter on record. In fact, whatever the groundhog says, the next six weeks, if January temperatures are any indication, should not just feel like spring, but continue to feel like spring.

The normal high temperatures for January is about 47.5 degrees. In January 2017, the average daily high hit a balmy 54.9 degrees in Middle Tennessee.

In contract, the normal March starts at about 56 degrees and ends averaging a high of about 66 degrees. Average February high-temperatures range from 49 in the beginning to 56 at the end of the month.

On top of that, only six days was the high temperature not above average. The record-high temperature for most days in January is about 72 to 75 degrees. The all-time January high temperature is 78 degrees, hit on January 29, 1911 and tied on January 24, 1972 and January 25, 1950.

This past January had five 70-plus degree days: the 12, 14, 16, 21 and 31, with 72 on the 16th the hottest single day.