Summer tease to end with drenching rainstorm and cooldown

As if to reinforce poet T.S. Eliot’s famous description of April as the “cruelest month,” a two-day sneak preview of summer-like sunshine and warmth will crash to a halt on Tuesday.

An intense rainstorm threatens to drench the county in downpours followed by a sharp temperature drop, according to the National Weather Service in Albany, N.Y.

One to two inches of April super-showers could combine with remnants of wintertime runoff into rivers and streams from higher elevations in parts of North Berkshire, the government forecasters stated.

As a result, a flood watch has been posted for the northern portion of the county, as well as southern Vermont and parts of eastern New York, in effect from 6 a.m. on Tuesday until 8 a.m. on Wednesday.

National Weather Service forecaster Tom Wasula explained that while the agency normally defines North Berkshire as extending from Pittsfield to the Vermont line, the alert for potential flooding was issued out of specific concern for the Hoosic River in Williamstown, which frequently overflows its banks there.

But farther south along the Housatonic, there’s no expectation of any flooding, according to data from the Northeast River Forecast Center, Wasula said.

As the leading edge of colder air crosses the county late Tuesday afternoon, he noted, the unseasonable warmth of Sunday and Monday will be replaced by the leading edge of colder air, sending temperatures down into the high 20s Tuesday night with daytime highs in the chilly low 40s on Wednesday.

There’s a chance of thunderstorms on Tuesday, Wasula pointed out, but the biggest concern in the Berkshires is the heavy rainfall. There could even be a coating of wet snow on the ground before dawn on Wednesday in parts of the county, and an inch or two in the highest elevations.

Despite the unseasonable warmth on Sunday, when the high was 74, and Monday, no records were approached. The all-time high for Sunday at Pittsfield Municipal Airport, where records date back to 1938, was 81 in 1977; Monday’s and Tuesday’s record highs, 82 and 86 respectively, were both set in 1941.

April warmup to follow coldest March on record

After a prolonged bout of bitter cold, ice and snow, a flip of the calendar will seem like a near-magical switchover from winter to spring.

Despite the frosty glaze that greeted drivers and pedestrians on an especially dreary Monday morning, that’s no April Fool’s joke. Starting Tuesday, look for normal and even above-normal readings for the rest of the week and beyond — highs near or above 50 and several days of sunny skies followed by occasional April showers.

Long-time Berkshirites who described the past winter as among the worst they can recall had good reason to complain.

It was the coldest March in the 75 years of record-keeping at Pittsfield Municipal Airport. The January through March averages vaulted the season into the top 10 coldest winters in the county.

The storm that grazed western New England over the weekend finally moved out into the Atlantic off Long Island, N.Y., on Monday, leaving Berkshire rivers and streams swollen following a two-inch rainfall over three days, as measured at the Pittsfield airport. Slightly less was recorded at Harriman & West Airport in North Adams, at 1.75 inches.

But no significant flooding was reported along the Housatonic and Hoosic rivers, according to hydrologists at the National Weather Service in Albany, N.Y.

The arrival of tranquil, pleasant spring conditions — daytime highs in the 50s, overnight lows in the 30s or slightly lower — should come as a boon for the long-delayed, still below-par maple syrup season.

Looking back at March, temperatures were below normal — often drastically — on 24 out of the month’s 31 days. The average, at 25 degrees, was 7 degrees below the norm, a sharp deviation not seen locally since 1940 and 1960, the two years that came closest. In Albany, N.Y., where government record-keeping began in 1820, even colder March averages were recorded during several 19th century years.

Heating fuel consumption and costs for the past month ran 20 percent above the long-term Berkshire average. Snowfall was far below normal, however; only 1 inch was measured at the Pittsfield airport and 5 inches in North Adams, compared to March averages of 13 to 15 inches countywide.

This week, the lengthening daylight, higher early April sun angle and a strong fair-weather system parked over the region will create a string of pleasant days, according to forecaster Tom Wasula’s outlook from the National Weather Service in Albany. There’s only a chance of occasional showers at mid-week, with a more significant rainfall possible next weekend.

March: Top 10 Coldest . . .

Here are the average temperatures for the months recorded at Pittsfield Municipal Airport since 1938…

2014: 25.0 degrees

1960: 25.2

1940: 25.4

The following March averages are from the National Weather Service in  Albany, N.Y., where records date back to 1820:

1885: 23.6
1863: 24.6
1875: 24.7
1843: 25.3
1888: 26.0
1916: 26.1
1869: 26.2

Sources: Eagle archives; AccuWeather.com; National Weather Service in Pittsfield and in Albany, N.Y.

First day of spring but no warmups in sight

Spring may be here officially, thanks to the arrival of the vernal equinox at 12:57 p.m. on Thursday.

 

But for weather-weary Berkshirites, spring has not sprung, following a fog-shrouded wintry mix of freezing rain and sleet that coated roadways and walkways early in the day.

 

To make matters worse, predictions of unseasonable cold and two more outbreaks of snow or sleet have caused some folks to talk about an “Arctic Spring.”

 

The grim outlook from the National Weather Service offers no comfort, with 10 days to two weeks of wintry weather expected to maintain a tight grip on the region.

 

Arctic air from Canada will continue to spill our way with any consistent warmup unlikely until well into April, according to the government forecasters’ three-month national outlook issued on Thursday.

 

During a media teleconference from the Climate Prediction Center in College Park, Md., weather experts acknowledged that the arrival of normal spring warmth will be delayed by the abnormally cold winter in the Northeast and Midwest, with a record-breaking 92 percent of the Great Lakes still ice-covered, said Mike Halpert of the CPC. He also cited the potential for minor flooding in western New England and eastern New York if heavy rains accompany a significant thaw next month.

 

But through June, “there’s no tilt in the odds toward above, near or below average temperatures,” he added, meaning equal chances of any outcome in the Northeast. The same applies to the outlook for precipitation.

 

“A general pattern of cool conditions will continue well into April,” said Jon Gottschalck, acting chief of the Climate Prediction Center. “Winter weather has set the stage for the spring climate outlook, with abnormally deep frozen soil and below normal temperatures.”

 

For the Berkshires, “there’s still a chance of another snowstorm or two,” noted Steve DiRienzo, the warning coordinator meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Albany, N.Y., in a phone interview. “No super warmups are in sight and real winter will tend to hang on.”

 

However, he commented, “eventually the sun will work its magic as it gets higher in the sky after another three weeks of generally cold weather. Spring is coming, but it’s taking its sweet time.”

 

Following a “spring tease” of two brighter, sunnier days, a tricky forecast is shaping up for Friday night into Saturday, with a rapidly-moving “Alberta Clipper” system expected to bring rain, sleet or snow — or a combination, take your pick. After a brutally cold Monday under a dome of Arctic air, a more significant storm could hit the region Tuesday night into Wednesday, but details remain up in the air.

 

According to records at Pittsfield Municipal Airport, the first two-thirds of March have been off the charts — average temperatures were nearly 8 degrees below normal with 17 out of 20 days colder than average. Snowfall for the season from November through the last day of winter totaled 59.2 inches, compared to a season-to-date average of 68 inches.

 

For the last week of March, the average high at the airport is in the mid-40s, with overnight lows in the mid-20s.

Winter Snow Totals. . .

Here are the monthly snowfall totals for the 2013-14 season so far:

March: 1.0 inches

February: 30.7 inches (fourth-highest since 1938)

January: 10.6 inches

December: 16.6 inches

November: 0.4 inches

Season total to date: 59.2 inches

Season normal to date: 68.3 inches

Source: National Weather Service, AccuWeather.com records at Pittsfield Municipal Airport.

Cold and Colder. . .

Here are the monthly temperature averages for the 2013-14 season so far:

March (to date):  -7.8 below normal

February: -4.4 below normal

January: -1.7 below normal

December: 0.3 above normal

 

Source: National Weather Service data, Pittsfield Municipal Airport.

 

Wintry blast threatens hazardous travel conditions

Travelers, beware! A wintry storm advancing toward the Northeast region is expected to cause icy, dicey conditions from Wednesday evening into Thursday midday as temperatures nosedive and rain turns to freezing rain, sleet and then snow.

According to the National Weather Service’s mid-morning update, North County and Central Berkshire areas could see 4 to 8 inches of heavy, wet snow on the ground by dawn Thursday, while South Berkshire is targeted for only 1 to 4 inches because the changeover to a wintry mix is unlikely before late evening.

The government forecasters issued a winter weather advisory for Berkshire County, in effect from 6 p.m. Wednesday until 11 a.m. Thursday. But areas to the north — all of Vermont and much of upstate New York — are under a winter storm warning with 10 to 20 inches of snowfall expected.

After Tuesday’s taste of spring, with a high of 49 at Pittsfield Municipal Airport, the return of winter with only 8 days until the vernal equinox will come as an unwelcome reminder that March is a stormy month in the Berkshires, with a long-term snowfall total of13 inches by April Fool’s Day.

The hazardous brew of rain, then ice and snow — with a flash freeze caused by a sharp temperature drop from the 30s into the teens or lower overnight — is blamed on an intensifying winter storm that was over Pittsburgh at midday on Wednesday, tracking toward New York City, Long Island and, by Thursday noon, heading out to sea off Cape Cod.

Rain, which could become heavy on Wednesday afternoon, is set to transition to a mix of sleet and freezing rain shortly before dark, followed by a changeover to all snow by midnight, then tapering off before dawn on Thursday, meteorologist Brian Frugis stated from the National Weather Service’s office in Albany, N.Y.

The greatest hazard is likely to be a flash freeze as temperatures skid Wednesday evening, causing roads and sidewalks to ice over as colder air rushes in, Frugis pointed out. Travel will be hazardous, and the snow will make matters worse. Northerly winds will pick up to 15 to 25 mph, with gusts up to 35 mph possible.

“The evening commute looks to be significantly impacted as falling temperatures and changing precipitation types make for hazardous travel across the region,” according to Frugis. Once the transition is completed, snowfall rates could reach one inch per hour at times, with a quick accumulation and rapid freeze up.

It will feel like mid-winter from Thursday through Sunday, with lows from zero to 10 before first light on Friday as strong winds continue. Forecasts through Tuesday call for well below normal temperatures, but the next major storm is expected to stay south of western Massachusetts on Monday, based on current computer models.

Storm track revised, snow prospects diminish

Based on a change in the expected track of a winter storm advancing on the Northeast region from the Ohio Valley, forecasters have downgraded the prospect of a major snowstorm for Berkshire County on Wednesday and Thursday.

The winter storm watch for South Berkshire has been canceled, according to the National Weather Service office in Albany, N.Y., since heavy rain is expected to wipe out any accumulating snow on Wednesday. However, according to forecaster Brian Frugis’s mid-morning update, a wintry mix can’t be ruled out Wednesday night into early Thursday.

North Berkshire, where the winter storm watch remains in place, is still likely to get a few inches from the storm expected to track over Philadelphia and just north of New York City.

Central Berkshire, including Pittsfield, is likely to see a potpourri of snow, sleet and rain before a sharp temperature drop Wednesday night triggers a period of wet snow.

Frugis acknowledged a “rather low-confidence forecast” because the exact track of the complex winter storm is still up in the air. In  mid-March, a transitional period between winter and spring, a 50-mile deviation in the storm’s path can make a crucial difference in the pattern of precipitation over a specific area.

The most likely scenario, still subject to revision, calls for brief period of snow around daybreak Wednesday, but southerly breezes will send the thermometer above freezing, causing a transition to rain during the daylight hours.

Shortly after 8 p.m. on Wednesday, a changeover to sleet, freezing rain and, eventually snow, is expected, with a light to moderate accumulation before the storm winds down before dawn on Thursday.

Strong winds, with gusts up to 30 miles an hour, are likely Wednesday night, the government forecasters predicted, and temperatures will plummet into the teens or low 20s Thursday. Seasonable readings should return on Saturday.

Want more snow? You’re in luck!

Except for winter sports buffs still eager for some late-season runs down ski area slopes, many Berkshirites may groan at the prospect of yet another snowfall during a seemingly-endless, brutally harsh winter.

A storm gathering in the Ohio Valley, tapping Gulf of Mexico moisture, is expected to make a midweek journey up the Middle Atlantic and New England coast, the National Weather Service reported on Monday. A winter storm watch has been posted for Berkshire County and much of the surrounding region from Wednesday at 7 a.m. through Thursday at 11 a.m.

Government forecasters are predicting heavy snow on Wednesday, though it may mix with rain or sleet during daylight hours before turning to all snow at night. Total accumulation of 9 inches or more is possible, with snowfall rates of one to two inches an hour from Wednesday afternoon through the late evening.

But AccuWeather.com, the private forecasting service, offered a second opinion: 4 to 8 inches of snow, with the higher amounts in North Berkshire and lower totals in South Berkshire.

Either way, road crews will be working overtime once again, and school superintendents could face another snow day decision, on top of an above-average total for most of the districts up to now.

The storm is expected to rapidly deepen off the New Jersey shore at night, before moving off Long Island, N.Y., and Cape Cod, according to forecaster Luigi Meccariello of the National Weather Service’s Albany office.

Snowfall intensity is likely to be heaviest on Wednesday afternoon following a brief period of rain or sleet, he said. The exact track of the storm will determine final snow totals.

The snow is likely to begin soon after sunrise on Wednesday, accompanied by north winds at 10 to 20 mph, gusting to 35 mph. Temperatures will start in the mid-20s to mid-30s, but are likely to plummet to the teens or single digits late at night.

Snow-covered roads combined with poor visibility could create potentially dangerous travel conditions, the forecasters stated.

Although it’s a transitional month from winter to spring, heavy March snowfalls are far from rare in the Berkshires — on average, the county gets 13 inches, according to weather records at Pittsfield Municipal Airport dating back to 1938.

But the sharply below normal temperatures for the month so far are quite unusual. On Thursday night, for example, the low may be barely above zero, and that’s 20 to 25 degrees below normal for the tail end of winter.

“The cold will be be brutal by mid-March standards,” said AccuWeather.com meteorologist Joe Lundberg.

Any relief in sight? Not until March 20, which happens to be the vernal equinox, when highs are expected to reach seasonable levels in the 40s to 50s, with overnight lows in the 30s.

Snow Scoreboard. . .

Here are the monthly snowfall totals for the 2013-14 season so far:

March: Trace
February: 30.7 inches (fourth-highest since 1938)
January: 10.6 inches
December: 16.6 inches
November: 0.4 inches

Season total to date: 58.2 inches
Season normal to date: 65.4 inches

Source: National Weather Service, AccuWeather.com records at Pittsfield Municipal Airport.

Big Chill Scoreboard. . .

Here are the monthly temperature averages for the 2013-14 season so far:

March (to date):  -10 below normal
February: -4.4 below normal
January: -1.7 below normal
December: 0.3 above normal

Source: National Weather Service data, Pittsfield Municipal Airport.

Relief from cold? A long wait

With temperatures running in near-record territory, well below normal for early March, Berkshirites are wondering, where’s the relief?

Even though the vernal (spring) equinox is 16 days away and Daylight Saving Time resumes this Sunday at 2 a.m., there’s no significant warmup in sight.

Daytime highs should break above freezing on Friday and over the weekend, but not by much, despite a strengthening late-winter sun.

No major snowfalls are in sight, but seasonable temperatures remain off in the distant horizon, maybe by next week at this time.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Back into the deep freeze after spring tease; snowstorm early next week?

Winter-weary residents who welcomed the past few days of milder weather are dreading a renewed onslaught of well below-normal temperatures accompanied by strong winds for the rest of this week.

Although only minor snowfalls are looming for the next several days, this month already ranks among the top four snowiest Februaries on record at Pittsfield Municipal Airport, with nearly 30 inches so far.

Daytime thawing of the deep snowpack, still averaging close to two feet, has spawned treacherous, icy side streets and walkways, resulting in numerous falls and rapid depletion of many local communities’ salt and sand reserves.

Public works departments and snow-removal contractors have worked overtime to keep up with the ice and an epidemic of potholes.

Blustery, cold conditions will intensify this week through next weekend, according to forecaster Tom Wasula at the National Weather Service in Albany, N.Y.

“Once again the polar jet stream will plunge southward, tapping bitter cold air directly from the Arctic Ocean,” stated Chris Dolce at Weather.com, the online service of The Weather Channel.

At AccuWeather.com, senior meteorologist Kristina Pydynowski observed that “last week’s thaw was a mere tease with the polar vortex set to make an encore performance this week.”

The polar vortex refers to a mass of very cold air that usually hangs out above the Arctic Circle, according to AccuWeather, but has made frequent inroads into the Northeast and Midwest this winter.

And the National Weather Service’s Climate Prediction Center in College Park, Md., predicts no relief from the harsh wintry temperatures and winds in the Northeast until March 10, at the earliest.

High temperatures in the Berkshires will struggle to reach the low 20s on Tuesday and Wednesday despite the strengthening late-February sun and 11 hours of daylight. By late week, highs in the teens and overnight lows around zero are expected.

The normal low and high for the final days of February ranges from 36 to 18 in Berkshire County.

Light snow showers are possible each day this week, the government forecasters stated. A more significant snowstorm could head our way early next week.

Dangerous wind chills should intensify the impact of the frigid air mass, especially from Wednesday into the weekend.

Snowfall for this month, as measured at Pittsfield Municipal Airport, totaled 29.6 inches as of Monday afternoon, far above the February average of 18 inches, and the fourth highest since 1938.

For the current winter, 57.2 inches have piled up since the first measurable snow on Nov. 12. That’s on par with the long-term season- to-date average. For the November to May period, the normal total for Pittsfield is 78 inches.

Snowfall Scoreboard. . .

The top five February totals:

1962: 36.2 inches

2010: 32.4 inches

1950: 31.9 inches

2014: 29.6 inches (through Feb. 24)

2007: 27.5 inches

Sources: National Weather Service; AccuWeather.com; Eagle archives. Records at Pittsfield Municipal Airport date back to 1938.

UPDATE: Storm total 10-20 inches in Berkshires, forecasters predict

A prolonged onslaught of heavy snow, creating dangerous travel conditions for the Thursday afternoon and Friday morning rush hours, is expected to wallop the Berkshires and the surrounding region, according to government and private forecasters.

The National Weather Service’s winter storm warning, in effect from 7 a.m. Thursday until 10 a.m. Friday, calls for total snowfall of 10 to 20 inches throughout the county, said forecaster Kevin Lipton in the Albany office, with the highest amounts in the hilltowns of the eastern Berkshires.

Nearly as much is expected throughout western New England and eastern New York, including Albany and the rest of the Capital District.

“It’s a very big deal, very high impact,” Lipton stated. Confidence in the forecast is high, he added, with the storm developing “well on track” after packing an icy punch in portions of Georgia and the Carolinas.

“Travel will be dangerous, very difficult at best,” he said, from Thursday afternoon well into Friday morning. The first flakes should be flying by mid-morning in southern and central portions of Berkshire County, reaching North County by noon.

The storm is a classic Nor’easter, Lipton explained, meaning it tracks along the Atlantic coast from its origins in the Gulf of Mexico to just east of Cape Cod, packing     strong northeast winds.

Those winds could gust as high as 30 to 30 miles an hour in the Berkshires, said Lipton. Only extreme South Berkshire might see a brief mix with sleet late Thursday afternoon, with all snow elsewhere.

The snow will be heavy and wet, making it less prone to drifting but more challenging to plow or shovel, Lipton noted.

During the height of the storm Thursday night, snow could be falling at a rate of one to two inches an hour, or even more in some locations.

AccuWeather.com is predicting a range of 10 to 18 inches for Berkshire County, with possible downed tree limbs and power lines.

In Boston, a rain and snow mix was on tap for Thursday, with 4 to 6 inches of accumulation in the city, but higher amounts and some ice west of I-95. Conditions on the MassPike between the Berkshires and Boston are expected to be especially treacherous on Thursday.

New York City is also expecting a mix, but with 6 to 8 inches of snow before a possible changeover to sleet, freezing rain or rain.

Airports in the New York area, at Boston’s Logan and in Hartford and Albany are posting widespread cancellations for Thursday and Friday flights.

Some of the season’s coldest early-morning temperatures were recorded just before dawn on Wednesday:

Stamford, Vt.  -16
Williamstown  -16
North Adams (airport) -12
Hancock -12
Egremont -11
Becket -10
Great Barrington -8
Adams -7
Lanesborough -4
Pittsfield Municipal Airport -4
Lenox  -3

Sources: National Weather Service; weather spotters.

Thursday storm on track for strong impact on Berkshires

A prolonged onslaught of heavy snow, creating dangerous travel conditions, is expected to wallop the Berkshires and the surrounding region, beginning Thursday morning.

The National Weather Service’s winter storm warning, in effect from 7 a.m. Thursday until 10 a.m. Friday, calls for total snowfall of 8 to 14 inches throughout western New England and sections of eastern New York. A mix with sleet is possible at times, especially in South Berkshire.

During the height of the storm as it tracks up the Eastern Seaboard to just off Cape Cod by Friday morning, snow could be falling at a rate of one to two inches an hour, or even more in some locations.

Because it’s a slow-moving, intensifying storm, travel is expected to be disrupted on Thursday afternoon during the homebound rush, and potentially Friday morning as well. North winds gusting as high as 30 miles an hour would make conditions even more perilous, according to the government forecasters in Albany, N.Y.

AccuWeather.com is predicting a range of 10 to 18 inches for Berkshire County, with snow expected to begin soon after dawn and continue into Friday morning. The heavy, wet snow could down tree limbs and power lines, the private forecasting service stated.

The Deep South was hard hit by ice from the storm that originated in the Gulf of Mexico before its run up the coast.

In Boston, a rain and snow mix was on tap for Thursday, with 4 to 6 inches of slushy accumulation expected in the city, but heavier snow and some ice west of I-95. Conditions on the MassPike between the Berkshires and Worcester are expected to be especially treacherous on Thursday.

New York City is also expecting a mix, but with 6 to 8 inches of snow before any changeover to sleet, freezing rain or rain.

Airports in the New York area, at Boston’s Logan and in Hartford and Albany are expected to post widespread cancellations for Thursday flights.