Only light snow Friday, but next week may be a different story

Surprise! Winter still has some bite to it.

But a light to moderate snowfall in western New England on Friday morning is expected to taper off quickly, said John Quinlan, meteorologist at the National Weather Service in Albany, N.Y.

No winter weather advisories are being issued for Berkshire County and southern Vermont, he explained, because snowfall totals are expected to be no more than two inches in most areas — short of the four-inch threshold for an advisory.

“The snow is moving east and should be over by midday,” he said as a coastal storm pummels eastern Massachusetts with an expected 6 to 12 inches of snow. Central portions of the state, including Springfield and the Pioneer Valley, could see 4-6 inches.

AccuWeather.com predicted nearly 3 inches of snow for the Berkshires on Friday, slightly less for Bennington County, Vermont, and closer to 4 inches for Wyndham County in southeastern Vermont, including the Brattleboro area.

Motorists bound for school or work found some slick spots on Friday morning, though the recent mild spell made it easier for highway crews to clear major roadways.

Anyone craving a more significant snowstorm has an eye on the sky for next Tuesday, when a coastal storm may brush the area, or even come closer.

But Quinlan said computer models are all over the map, making it difficult if not impossible to predict timing and accumulations just yet.

At AccuWeather, forecasters are tracking the coastal storm and a second storm emerging from the Midwest and the Great Lakes. Whichever one becomes dominant will determine how much snow western New England gets on Tuesday and Wednesday, Chief Meteorologist Elliot Abrams stated in a mid-morning web posting.

 

Where’s winter? No sign of returning from AWOL

The virtual no-show, no-snow winter shows no sign of making a late entrance onto the weather stage in the Berkshires and nearby bare-ground regions.

That’s the discouraging word (for winter-sports enthusiasts) from the National Weather Service, where the government agency’s Climate Prediction Center outside Washington, D.C., foresees continuing above-normal temperatures and rain rather than snow, at least for the next week or two.

On Wednesday, a spring-like rainstorm with temperatures in the 50s is expected to wash away the few remaining traces of the season’s snowfall, a paltry 5 inches at Pittsfield Municipal Airport, compared to an average of 42 inches for October through January since 1938.

Based on weather records at the airport and at the National Weather Service in Albany, N.Y., only the 2006-07 season saw so little snowfall through January. But from February through April of 2007,winter came roaring back with a total of 53 inches.

At AccuWeather.com, long-range meteorologist Paul Pastelok’s outlook for the rest of the season indicates at least the potential for a late-winter snowstorm.

But it’s a cautious prediction, he acknowledged. “There could be a last surge of winter before we see the transition into spring,” he stated in an online posting. “For the Northeast, there’s still an opportunity for some snow, although there’s a higher chance that we’ll see a cold snap rather than a big snowstorm.”

But by mid-March, he added, a quick warmup is expected, with milder air arriving sooner than in the past two years.

“A lack of arctic air in the region and the sun getting higher and higher in the sky will make it feel pretty nice in the Northeast,” Pastelok said.

Ironically, Boston has had twice as much snow as the Berkshires so far, while the New York metro area is in a final, slushy, mild-weather meltdown from the Jan. 23-24 near-blizzard that dumped 26.8 inches on Central Park, just shy of the all-time heaviest winter storm in the city since records began in 1870.

Government forecasters in Albany list the winter of 1912-13 as the least snowiest in the region, with just under 14 inches. The runner-up, with 19 inches, was the 1988-89 season.

Unless weather patterns change dramatically — always a possibility —2015-16 is likely to hold a place of honor, or dishonor, as the winter with hardly any snow.

 

Snow at last, but ski industry suffers severe financial hit

The “springtime in December” party is over.

Following the return of below-freezing daytime temperatures in the Berkshires, forecasters have issued their first winter weather alert of the season, ending the record-breaking “snow drought” that has bedeviled winter sports enthusiasts, causing multi-million dollar losses to area ski resorts, but delighted residents reaping significant heating fuel savings.

A winter weather advisory is posted for 7 p.m. Monday until 7 p.m. Tuesday as a storm from the Midwest draws a bead on the Northeast. Snow is expected to break out before midnight in the Berkshires, according to meteorologist Thomas Wasula at the National Weather Service in Albany, N.Y.

Ahead of a pre-dawn changeover to freezing rain, 2 to 4 inches of snow and sleet may be on the ground, with higher amounts in north Berkshire and southern Vermont, and lower totals in south Berkshire. The early morning mix could coat parts of the county with a glaze of ice, especially south of Pittsfield, before all areas switch to plain rain by midday.

“The worst travel conditions will be Monday night into Tuesday morning,” said AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Brett Anderson. “Roads that are not treated will become treacherous.”

Hazardous travel is likely during the drive to work on Tuesday, government and private forecasters predicted. Up to a quarter-inch of ice buildup is possible countywide before temperatures rise from predawn lows in the mid-20s into the upper 30s later in the day. Any remaining ice and slush on roadways is expected to melt away in time for the evening drive home.

The winter weather advisory includes a possibility of scattered power blackouts in areas that see the greatest buildup of ice. High winds gusting to 30 miles per hour are possible.

Assuming all goes according to plan, the region will set a new record on Tuesday for the latest arrival of snow. The previous date for the latest-arriving, first measurable snowfall of the season was Dec. 24, 1912.

The economic hit to the region’s ski industry, hotels and restaurants has been severe, said Tyler Fairbank, president of Jiminy Peak Mountain Resort in Hancock.

But the area’s “Snowmaggedon” system of laying down a thick blanket of white had been up and running since 2 a.m., he said in a late-morning update. Jiminy is tentatively planning to reopen on Tuesday.

“This has been absolutely the worst start to a ski season,” Fairbank declared. “We have a multimillion dollar hole to dig our way out of.”

He and his father, Brian, co-founder of Jiminy and chairman of the Fairbank Group, had been on the front lines of the massive snowmaking operation all morning. “My father is 69 and is still absolutely passionate about snowmaking and is as smart about it as anyone in the industry,” Tyler Fairbank asserted.

Noting that Jiminy has had only minimal work for its 1,000 employees, most of them seasonal, he emphasized that ski areas throughout the Northeast — including the Fairbank Group’s Bromley Mountain in southern Vermont and Cranmore in North Conway, N.H. — have suffered economically.

“This has been a huge hit to the industry,” Fairbank stressed. “But winter is going to happen and it will be a longer, lingering finish.” Long-range forecasters used by Jiminy are predicting a “very wintry 90 days ahead,” he added.

“We’re taking full advantage of our super-powerful snowmaking plant to get snow on the slopes,” Fairbank said. “In this business, you have to take the long view and plan accordingly. This has hurt but it comes with the territory and we’ll be doing everything we can over the balance of the year to put more skiers on the mountain and get out of the business hole.”

The possibility of a minor winter storm is also a boon for snow-removal contractors who have been deprived of early-season income so far. In an average season, the Berkshires would have seen 23 inches of snow by now.

High temperature marks were shattered with a Christmas Eve high of 67 at Pittsfield Municipal Airport and 70 at Harriman and West Airport in North Adams. Christmas Day also saw historic warmth in both cities, with 61 in Pittsfield and 59 in North Adams.

Despite more typical readings this week, the month remains on track to go down as the warmest December at the Pittsfield airport, where government agency records date back to 1938.

No significant snowfall is on the horizon later this week and over the New Year’s holiday weekend. Milder air at mid-week will give way to more seasonable readings by Saturday, but still somewhat above normal — the normal range at the Pittsfield airport is 14 to 30 at the end of this month.

Temperatures have averaged 13 degrees above normal every day since Dec. 1, and record highs have been recorded on six days.

At a Glance . . .

Snow arrival: By midnight Monday.
Changeover to sleet: By 4 a.m. Tuesday.
Changeover to freezing rain: By 7 a.m. Tuesday.
Wintry mix changes to rain: By 11 a.m. Tuesday.
Snow-sleet total: 2-4 inches.
Ice buildup: Up to 0.4 inches.
Hazardous travel: 1 a.m. to 11 a.m. Tuesday.

Sources: National Weather Service, AccuWeather.com

Wacky warmth continuing, shattering records

If you’re a winter-sports enthusiast, operator of a ski area or owner of an outdoor recreation business, the weather outside is truly frightful.

For many others, it’s delightful, though truly bizarre.

The off-the-charts December “heat wave” that has shattered century-old records for lack of snow is expected to peak on Christmas Eve with highs at a spring-like mid to upper 60s, even in the Berkshires, according to NewsChannel 13 and WAMC meteorologist Paul Caiano.

Despite more seasonable temperatures expected next week, the month is on track to make weather history as the county’s warmest December since record-keeping began at Pittsfield Municipal Airport in 1938.

The regional record for the latest measurable snowfall of the season, set on Dec. 24, 1912, at Albany, N.Y., is sure to be broken, National Weather Service climate specialist Ingrid Amberger predicted.

In Pittsfield, the latest first snowfall was on Dec. 12, 1998, based on the past 78 years of statistics.

High-temperature records have been broken locally on four dates so far this month. Thursday’s predicted high should easily eclipse the previous record, 54, set in 2003.

The U,S. Climate Prediction Center outlook through Jan. 5 calls for continuing above-normal temperatures, with only low odds of measurable snow. There’s a possibility of mixed snow and rain next Monday night into Tuesday, according to the government agency in Albany.

Average temperatures this month, through Wednesday, are running about 12 degrees above normal at the Pittsfield airport, a departure considered historic by the weather service forecasters. The average late-December temperatures in Berkshire County range from a pre-dawn low of 15 to a mid-afternoon high of 31.

Most scientists blame the wacky weather on El Niño, unusually warm Pacific Ocean temperatures near the equator. This season’s especially strong version of the phenomenon causes alterations in the jet stream keeping polar air bottled up in northern Canada while rain and snowstorms track through the Pacific Northwest and eventually over the Great Lakes.

That pattern keeps the Northeast mild, wet but snow-free.

Jiminy Peak’s current plans call for limited operations beginning this Saturday from 9 to 4, with no night skiing. The Hancock resort’s Mountain Adventure Park will be open the rest of this week and next week, offering the Mountain Coaster, Soaring Eagle, Climbing Wall and Kid Climb. Aerial Adventure Park will be open except for the green course.

Ski Butternut remains closed at least through this Saturday. Other areas such as Bousquet and Otis Ridge are closed until further notice.

Among the Northeast ski areas reported open on Tuesday with limited terrain were Stratton, Bromley, Sugarbush, Okemo, Killington, Smuggler’s Notch and Stowe, all in Vermont, as well as Bretton Woods, Wildcat and Loon Mountain in New Hampshire and Whiteface in New York’s Adirondacks. A full list is available at www.onthesnow.com.

By early January, AccuWeather’s senior long-range meteorologist Paul Pastelok predicted, a gradual change in the weird weather pattern should develop, resulting in more typical mid-winter cold and occasional snow in the Northeast.

“It may take a couple of weeks for the pattern to set up,” Pastelok stated. “However, some colder air outbreaks along with stormy weather are possible during weeks two and three of January.”

—–

 

Tale of the Thermometer. . .

Here are the high-temperature records set at Pittsfield Municipal Airport so far this month, followed by the predicted highs for the rest of December:
Dec. 11: 55
Dec. 14: 59
Dec. 15: 60
Dec. 18: 50
========
Dec. 23: 53
Dec. 24: 66
Dec. 25: 54
Dec. 26: 45
Dec. 27: 51
Dec. 28: 34
Dec. 29: 39
Dec. 30: 40
Dec. 31: 37

Sources: National Weather Service; AccuWeather.com

Strong rainstorm poised to hit Berkshires on Wednesday

A potent storm drawing on leftover tropical moisture from the remnants of the once-mighty Hurricane Patricia is expected to dump at least two inches of rain on the Berkshires and southern Vermont starting Wednesday morning.

Strong winds are likely in the hills and mountains, according to the National Weather Service.

As twin storm centers from the Great Lakes and the Ohio Valley approach and merge, high wind watches or advisories may be issued, according to meteorologist Luigi Meccariello at the government forecast office in Albany, N.Y.

“Wind will be a big concern with this system,” he stated. The system will be tapping into plumes of moisture from the Gulf of Mexico as well as the Atlantic Ocean.

The rain is expected to begin soon after dawn on Wednesday and continue into the late night, causing significant ponding of water on some roadways because of fallen leaves clogging storm drains and culverts. The heaviest rainfall is due from Wednesday afternoon until early Thursday.

Because rivers and streams are running somewhat below normal due to persistent dry weather, flooding is not expected.

North Berkshire is targeted for the strongest winds with the storm, AccuWeather.com predicted, with sustained winds of 20 miles an hour and gusts to 40 mph starting early Thursday.

Temperatures are likely to be in the 60s on Wednesday, but will cool down significantly on Thursday as the bulk of the rainfall moves out of western New England.

For Halloween weekend, dry and seasonably chilly weather is forecast with nighttime lows in the 20s and daytime highs from 45 to 50, Meccariello said.

So far this month, just over one inch of rain has been recorded at Pittsfield Municipal Airport, about one-fourth the average amount for October, while temperatures have been somewhat below normal.

At Harriman and West Airport in North Adams, rainfall has totaled 1.26 inches, compared to an average of 3.96 inches for the first 27 days of the month.

The region’s driest conditions are in South Berkshire, Meccariello reported. “The rain definitely will be beneficial,” he said.

 

Flood advisory posted for area following all-night deluge

As an overnight deluge continued into the early morning, the National Weather Service posted an advisory for urban and small stream flooding in Berkshire County as well as central Bennington County in Vermont.

By 7 a.m., Pittsfield Municipal Airport had recorded nearly an inch and a half of rain, with about two inches at Harriman and West Airport in North Adams and in Bennington.

Heavy rain is expected into mid-morning, with rainfall rates exceeding a half inch per hour at times, the NWS reported. That will cause minor flooding in poor drainage, urban and low-lying areas.

The advisory is set to expire at 10:45 a.m., when a letup in the rainfall is likely.

But more showers are expected later in the day and on Friday as a tropical plume of moisture clashes with the leading edge of cooler air moving southward through the region. A sharp temperature drop into the 50s is expected later today.

Tropical Storm Joaquin, expected to intensify into a hurricane on Wednesday, may affect the region late this weekend or early next week, but the exact track of the storm remains up in the air.

Joaquin could threaten region this weekend

After the calm comes the storm. Two of them, according to forecasters at the National Weather Service and Accuweather.com, including a potential hurricane forming in the western Atlantic well off the coast of Florida.

The National Hurricane Center reported TWednesday morning that Tropical Storm Joaquin, about 300 miles east of the Bahamas, was strengthening with top winds of 70 miles an hour. Further strengthening is likely and by the weekend, what’s expected to be Hurricane Joaquin could be moving toward New England.

The exact track of the storm, and its potential impact on the Berkshires, is likely to become more certain later this week, forecasters stated.

Meanwhile, the prolonged spell of dry, late-summer sunny days and cool nights that delighted many area residents while creating abnormally dry conditions as well as below-normal river and stream flows ended with n overnight deluge into Wednesday morning.

As of Tuesday evening, only two inches of rain had been recorded at Pittsfield Municipal Airport for September, half of the normal amount. August rainfall was also well below normal.

But by Wednesday morning, an inch and a half of rain had been measured at the airport.

A series of tropical wet-weather systems promises to dumpmore  rain on the Berkshires off and on during the rest of the week, said meteorologist Ian Lee at the NWS in Albany, N.Y.

A flood watch remains in effect until Thursday morning, for 2 to 4 inches of rainfall in the Berkshires, southern Vermont and nearby New York state.

Some areas could even see 5 inches of rain by week’s end, prompting concern for potential minor flooding despite the recent dry spell.

“The ground will soak up most of it,” Lee said. “But we could see some issues in poor-drainage areas, as well as rapidly rising creeks and streams.”

After a brief respite late in the work week, Tropical Storm Joaquin, having evolved into a hurricane, could give the region another soaking late in the weekend and on Monday, along with high winds, though the National Hurricane Center stressed that the precise track and future intensity of the system remains up in the air.

“A chaotic upper air pattern is expected through the weekend into the beginning of next week,” said NWS forecaster Joe Villani, “resulting in a huge spread of possibilities.”

The best chances for heavy rain and strong winds related to Joaquin are expected in the Berkshires late in the weekend into Monday.

“A drenching rain across the Northeast through midweek could lead to grounds becoming saturated prior to the arrival of this storm,” AccuWeather meteorologist Brett Rathbun stated.

“Should heavy rain later this week and into the weekend fall across the same areas, it could run the risk of major flooding,” he added.

Storm Outlook. . .

Wednesday: Rain, heavy at times, 2 to 3 inches of rain possible. High 64, nighttime low 45.

Thursday: Cloudy, much cooler, high 54, overnight low 42.

Friday: Cloudy, more rain developing, high 53, overnight low 45.

Saturday through Monday: Cloudy. rain possible depending on the track and intensity of Joaquin. Highs 60, lows in the 40s.

Source: National Weather Service, AccuWeather.com

Torrents of rain to relieve dry spell

After the calm comes the storm. Two of them, according to forecasters at the National Weather Service and Accuweather.com.

The prolonged spell of dry, late-summer sunny days and cool nights that delighted many area residents also created abnormally dry conditions as well as below-normal river and stream flows.

As of Tuesday morning, only two inches of rain had been recorded at Pittsfield Municipal Airport for September, half of the normal amount. August rainfall was also well below normal.

But a slow-moving series of tropical wet-weather systems promises to dump torrents of rain on the Berkshires over the next few days, said meteorologist Ian Lee at the NWS in Albany, N.Y.

The wild card is a developing tropical storm in the western Atlantic that is causing “a lot of flip-flopping” among computer predictions for its track later this week, he noted.

First, an unusually early-autumn warm, humid air mass from the South was set to clash with the leading edge of cooler air, resulting in prolonged periods of heavy rain and even possible thunderstorms.

A flood watch has been issued by the government forecasters, in effect from Tuesday night until Thursday morning, for 2 to 4 inches of rainfall in the Berkshires, southern Vermont and nearby New York state.

Some areas could even see 5 inches of rain by week’s end, prompting concern for potential minor flooding despite the recent dry spell.

“The ground will soak up most of it,” Lee said. “But we could see some issues in poor-drainage areas, as well as rapidly rising creeks and streams.”

After a brief respite late in the work week, Tropical Storm Joaquin or its remnants could give the region another soaking over the weekend, though the National Hurricane Center says the track and future intensity of the system remains up in the air.

“A chaotic upper air pattern is expected through the weekend into the beginning of next week,” said NWS forecaster Joe Villani, “resulting in a huge spread of possibilities.”

The best chances for heavy rain and strong winds related to Joaquin are expected in the Berkshires from Friday night into Sunday. The storm, with top winds exceeding 40 miles an hour, was about 380 miles northeast of the Bahamas on Tuesday, moving slowly westward.

“A drenching rain across the Northeast through midweek could lead to grounds becoming saturated prior to the arrival of this storm,” AccuWeather meteorologist Brett Rathbun stated.

“Should heavy rain later this week and into the weekend fall across the same areas, it could run the risk of major flooding,” he added.

Storm Outlook. . .

Wednesday: Rain, heavy at times, following downpours on Tuesday night. 2 to 3 inches of rain possible. High 64, nighttime low 45.

Thursday: Cloudy, much cooler, high 54, overnight low 42.

Friday: Cloudy, more rain developing, high 53, overnight low 45.

Saturday, Sunday: Cloudy. rain possible depending on tropical storm track. Highs 60, lows in the 40s.

Source: AccuWeather.com

Region facing first hot spell in nearly 2 years

The first extended hot spell of the summer is set to bake the Berkshires this week as a high-pressure system parked over the mid-Atlantic states pumps tropical air from the South into the Northeast region.

With temperatures potentially approaching or even topping 90, Wednesday could be the hottest day since Sept. 11, 2013, at Pittsfield Municipal Airport.

That was the last time the 90-degree mark was reached here, according to AccuWeather.com and the National Weather Service. During last summer, an unusually cool one, the season-long high was 88.

“Air conditioners and swimming pools will have their work cut out for them this week,” AccuWeather.com meteorologist Brian Lada stated in a web post.

Even though the Berkshires will be sizzling, the hot weather won’t qualify as an official heat wave, defined by most forecasters as three straight days of 90 degrees or higher in the Northeast.

With the prospect of high humidity and temperatures peaking on Wednesday, government meteorologist George Maglaras predicted that the heat index — a formula combining temperatures and humidity — could approach the mid- to upper 90s, especially in valley areas.

Showers and possible thunderstorms Thursday could bring some relief from the sultry air, though above-normal temperatures are due through the weekend.

Next week, more comfortable temperatures typical of the current summer season are expected to return.

At AccuWeather, long-range forecasters are casting a wary eye on the Gulf of Mexico and the warm Atlantic waters near Bermuda as conditions ripen for possible development of tropical storms over the next few days.

Water temperatures are above normal, meteorologist Ben Noll pointed out, and favorable atmospheric patterns could lead to the gradual development of an offshore storm. Where it might track remains an open question at this point, he added.

Over the past two months, unusually wet weather has helped keep temperatures below normal in the Berkshires, with just over 13 inches of rain in Pittsfield since June 1, compared to a normal total of 8.75 inches.

Remarkably, until this week the high recorded at Pittsfield Airport for this season was 85, set back on May 8. So far this month, the warmest day was July 19, but only 84 degrees, while last month’s high of 83 came on June 12.

Here are the high-temperature records set by date at Pittsfield Municipal Airport over the next four days:

July 28: 90 (1990)
July 29: 89 (1970)
July 30: 91 (1949)
July 31: 90 (1954)

Note: Temperature records for past years are not available from Harriman & West Airport in North Adams.

Source: National Weather Service via AccuWeather.com

Severe storm alert extended

The National Weather Service has extended a severe thunderstorm watch until 9 p.m. Tuesday for Berkshire County, Windham County in southeastern Vermont (including the Brattleboro area), as well as Columbia County, N.Y.

A clash between a sultry air mass and the leading edge of a cold front advancing on the region is the setup for the potentially severe storms, the government forecasters stated.

As of 4:30 p.m., storms were firing up in South Berkshire, while additional storms were detected by radar in central New York state, heading east toward central and north Berkshire before sunset.

The primary threats cited by the forecasters include scattered damaging wind gusts up to 70 miles an hour, just short of hurricane force. Isolated large hail up to one inch in diameter is possible.

The storms were producing heavy rainfall and could cause localized flooding, along with frequent cloud to ground lightning.