An unusual tropical blend of unseasonable warmth and humidity is making mid-October feel more like mid-June, but a wet and windy storm system should bring a gradual return to more normal weather over the next several days.
The rainstorm advancing slowly on the Berkshires from the Great Lakes could drench the region with at least 2 inches of rain following a prolonged, mostly dry spell, according to meteorologist Huge Johnson at the National Weather Service in Albany, N.Y. Thunderstorms with gusty winds of 40 to 50 miles per hour are also possible on Thursday, a rarity at this time of year.
Wednesday’s pre-dawn low of 66 at Pittsfield Municipal Airport was the warmest minimum on record for the date, shattering the previous low of 62 set in 1954. The normal low for Oct. 15 is 38, with a high of 58. Strong southerly winds funneling moist air from the tropics were responsible for the off-the-charts mild air, said Johnson.
Rivers and streams should easily handle the expected heavy rainfall, he pointed out, since they have been running low during abnormally dry conditions since late August.
But loose leaves on roadways could cause slick driving conditions.
“The rain can overwhelm storm drains, especially those blocked with fallen leaves,” AccuWeather.com Senior Meteorologist Alex Sosnowski stated.
The last soaking downpour of an inch or more in Pittsfield was recorded on Aug. 22. Since then, there have been several moderate rainfalls, but precipitation has been less than half the normal level since Aug. 1, according to the National Weather Service’s airport records.
Thursday’s strong winds and the heavy rainfall expected to begin before dawn, should put the finishing touches on what has been a spectacular fall foliage season, Johnson said.
Despite the reprise of near-summerlike warmth, the winter weather season starts in less than six weeks. AccuWeather.com’s updated outlook, released on Wednesday, calls for a surge of cold air into the Northeast around Thanksgiving.
But the most severe cold and snow is expected to hold off until January and February, according to the long-range forecast. An encore of last winter’s extreme cold is not likely, according to forecaster Paul Pastelok.
Nevertheless, several blasts of Arctic air, dubbed by some meteorologists as the “polar vortex,” may hit the Northeast during those two months. Higher-than-normal snow totals also are expected in western Massachusetts. Average winter snowfall, as measured at the Pittsfield Airport, is 76 inches.