Forecasters expect 18-24 inches of snow in Berkshires

Berkshire County, along with the rest of the Northeast, is bracing for a major winter storm that could leave 18 to 24 inches on the ground between Monday afternoon and late Tuesday night.

Travel, school schedules and workplaces may be seriously affected on Tuesday, according to the National Weather Service in Albany, N.Y., and Boston, as well as AccuWeather.com and other commercial forecasters.

The setup is a classic one for big snowstorms in New England, with an Arctic air mass to the north funneling frigid air into the region as strong energy from a Midwest storm jumps to the mid-Atlantic coast, spawning a more powerful sibling and directing ocean moisture into a wide area from New Jersey to the Canadian Maritimes.

Government forecasters in Albany posted a winter storm warning from 1 p.m. Monday until 1 a.m. Wednesday, calling for 18 inches in the central and northern Berkshires, but up to 24 inches in South County. Litchfield County in northwest Connecticut is under a blizzard warning.

Snow is expected to begin Monday afternoon, with as much as 2 to 3 inches an hour by late night, said meteorologist Neil Stuart at the National Weather Service in Albany.

“It’s a high-confidence forecast,” said Stuart on Sunday afternoon. “Definitely a big storm, the kind we get once every few winters.”

The approaching storm is likely to “explosively intensify” off the New Jersey coast on Monday, while slowing down and nearly stalling southeast of Long Island before it heads up toward Cape Cod.

In the Berkshires, treacherous travel conditions are expected as roads become covered by blowing and drifting snow, Stuart said. Some roads may become impassable. North to northeast winds from 15 to 25 miles an hour, with gusts to 30 mph, along with temperatures mainly in the teens and low visibilities, will only make matters worse.

Since the storm will be right offshore, NWS forecasters in the Boston area predicted a “crippling and potentially historic blizzard. Travel may become impossible and life threatening” in eastern, central and southern New England. Accumulations of 20 to 30 inches are expected.

A blizzard warning was issued for eastern Massachusetts and Rhode Island, with damaging winds as high as 60 to 70 mph, especially on Cape Cod, Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket, along with significant coastal flooding.

“This is pretty much a textbook case for a major winter storm and blizzard in southern New England,” stated Hayden Frank of the National Weather Service.

At AccuWeather.com, senior meteorologist Kristina Pydynowski predicted a major blizzard for New York City that could bring the metropolitan area to a standstill Monday night through Tuesday.

IN BRIEF:

Berkshire Weather Impacts . . .

Snowfall totals: 18-24 inches
Timing: Monday 1 p.m.-Wednesday 1 a.m.
Worst effects: Monday night into Tuesday.
Snowfall rates: 2-3 inches an hour.
Winds: 15-25 mph, gusts to 30 mph.
Hazards: Blowing, drifting snow, low visibility.
Travel: Extremely dangerous.
Schools, Workplaces: Likely delays, closings Tuesday.
Alerts: Winter storm warning for Berkshires, eastern N.Y., southern Vt.
Blizzard warnings: Litchfield County, Conn., eastern Mass., R.I.

Source: National Weather Service, Albany, N.Y.

Winter storm warning issued by National Weather Service

Posted 4 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 25:

Winter Storm Warning in effect from 1 PM Monday to 1 am EST Wednesday…

The National Weather Service in Albany has issued a Winter Storm Warning for heavy snow…which is in effect from 1 PM Monday to 1 am EST Wednesday. The Winter Storm Watch is no longer in effect.

* Locations…eastern Catskills…Mid Hudson valley…Taconics… Berkshires…and southern Vermont.

* Hazard types…heavy snow.

* Snow accumulations…12 to 24 inches. The highest amounts will likely be in Dutchess County…the Taconics and Berkshires.

* Maximum snowfall rates…2 to 3 inches per hour.

* Timing…snow will overspread the region from southwest to northeast Monday afternoon…and will continue heavy at times Monday night into Tuesday…before gradually tapering off late Tuesday night.

* Impacts…extremely dangerous travel conditions due to snow covered roadways and low visibility. Blowing and drifting snow will also be likely. Some roads may become impassable.

* Winds…north 10 to 20 mph with gusts up to 30 mph.

* Temperatures…in the teens to lower 20s.

Precautionary/preparedness actions…

A Winter Storm Warning for heavy snow means severe winter weather conditions are expected or occurring. Significant amounts of snow are forecast that will make travel dangerous. Only travel in an emergency. If you must travel…keep an extra flashlight… food…and water in your vehicle in case of an emergency.

Record rainfall for mid-January as icy conditions persist

 

Area road crews were out in force on Monday morning as persistently icy sidewalks, driveways and many side streets created treacherous conditions for motorists and pedestrians.

Despite a record rainfall for the date recorded on Sunday at Pittsfield Municipal Airport and at Harriman-and-West Airport in North Adams, partially-melted ice and slush continued to pose travel difficulties in many parts of the Berkshires.

A period of sleet and snow on Sunday evening was partly to blame, according to meteorologist Luigi Meccariello at the National Weather Service office in Albany, N.Y.

He pointed out that the prolonged cold snap, with seven below-zero lows during the first half of the month, had left the ground in a deep freeze, making it difficult for the rainfall to penetrate.

Or, as a harried oil delivery truck driver put it while making his rounds in Lenox on Monday, “the ice had nowhere to go.”

At the Pittsfield Airport, 1.30 inches of rain was measured by the National Weather Service; the airport on the North Adams-Williamstown line recorded 1.20 inches. Weather spotters posted similar totals in Great Barrington, Otis, Williamstown and Stamford, Vt., the government forecast office in Albany, N.Y., reported.

“It’s pretty abnormal to see that much rain in the middle of winter,” said Meccariello on Monday afternoon. “Typically, we don’t see it.”

He noted that Berkshire County was deluged with close to half of its normal January precipitation in just one day. The average for the month is 2.92 inches, a combination of melted snowfall, sleet and rain.

Snowfall for the season so far, at 26.9 inches, is well below normal — and half of that total fell in November.

No major storms are in sight this week, though there’s an outside chance of an inch or two of snow Wednesday night, Meccariello said.

Although the Housatonic approached the top of its banks at some locations on Sunday night, there was no actual river flooding in Berkshire County. But there was “urban flooding” — some roadways in cities and towns sported deep water, since many storm drains were clogged by snow and ice.

The only flood warning for the region issued by the weather service was for the Hoosic River in Eagle Bridge, N.Y., a settlement between Hoosick in Rensselaer County and White Creek in neighboring Washington County. The hamlet, just west of Bennington, Vt., was the home of folk artist Anna Mary Robertson Moses, better known as “Grandma Moses.”

Rainstorm Totals…

The National Weather Service reported the following rainfall totals through midnight Sunday:

Otis: 1.60 inches
South Williamstown: 1.38 inches
Pittsfield Municipal Airport: 1.30 inches
Great Barrington: 1.26 inches
Harriman-and-West Airport, North Adams: 1.20 inches

Sources: National Weather Service observation stations and reports from trained spotters.

 

Potentially dangerous storm prompts winter weather warnings

An intensifying storm emerging from the Mississippi Valley on Saturday is poised to collide with an equally strong cold air mass drifting over northern New England, setting the stage for a potentially dangerous mix of snow, sleet and freezing rain over the Berkshires, Vermont and upstate New York.

A winter storm warning for the Berkshires from Pittsfield north to the Vermont line goes into effect at 4 p.m. Saturday and has been extended to 6 a.m. on Sunday, according to the National Weather Service in Albany, N.Y.

From 3 to 6 inches of snow and sleet, along with a moderate ice buildup, will lead to poor visibility and snow-covered roads, especially Saturday night. Difficult and hazardous travel conditions are predicted, NWS meteorologist Thomas Wasula stated.

After the storm begins shortly before sunset, snow could fall at a rate of an inch an hour, accompanied by strong winds, before a changeover to sleet and freezing rain by midnight. Well before dawn on Sunday, milder temperatures are expected to yield a changeover to all rain.

For Berkshire County south of Pittsfield, the government forecaster posted a less-severe winter weather advisory, also from 4 p.m. Saturday to 6 a.m. Sunday, since snow and sleet totals should be limited to 2 to 4 inches, although with a buildup of ice.

The changeover to freezing rain and plain rain is expected a few hours earlier in south Berkshire than in the rest of the county. But slight changes in temperatures could play havoc with the type of precipitation at any given time, Wasula commented.

Travelers in the Pioneer Valley and Springfield areas, where winter storm warnings are also posted, are being alerted to especially dangerous driving conditions tonight, according to NWS forecasters in Taunton, near Boston. The entire state is in for a period of snow, sleet and freezing rain between sunset Saturday and early Sunday morning.

Describing the western New England and eastern New York forecast as challenging, Wasula cited a “classic scenario” as cold, dry air funnels into central and southern New England, clashing with the warmer-air storm tracking toward Quebec from the Deep South. The blast of warmer air wrapping into the storm will spike temperatures into the low 50s for a brief period on Sunday, he noted.

While some, if not all, of the snow and ice should be washed away by the warmup and a burst of heavy rain on Sunday, a frigid mass of Arctic air is heading for the region during the work week, Wasula warned.

Occasional snow showers could develop from Monday until midweek. A bitter outbreak of the coldest temperatures since last January will send thermometers plunging to zero or below Wednesday night, with highs barely reaching 10 on Thursday.

 

Ice, then rain but not much snow

Temperatures in the Berkshires nudged above freezing as dawn broke on Tuesday, and forecasters scaled back their predictions of snow, sleet and ice.

Instead of the anticipated winter storm warning, the National Weather Service in Albany, N.Y., posted a winter weather advisory for the area until midnight tonight, with no more than an inch of two of snow predicted.

Some early-morning ice made side roads hazardous in parts of the county.

Most schools opened normally, but the Central Berkshire Regional School District declared a snow day, and the Gabriel Abbott Memorial School in the town of Florida also closed. The Adams-Cheshire district opened, as did the BART public charter school in Adams, but with a two-hour delay for both.

The Southern Berkshire Regional School District also opened with a two-hour delay.

Following a brief wintry mix in some parts of the county on Tuesday morning, a quick transition to rain was expected, according to meteorologist Brian Montgomery at the NWS.

The foul weather is being caused by a slow-moving coastal storm that formed off Cape Hatteras, N.C., and was expected to stall off the New Jersey shore by Tuesday night.

Apart from some heavy rain, the major impact on the county could be strong winds, with gusts of 25 to 40 miles per hour possible.

Because the storm will be slow to move out of the New York metro area, where it is expected to meander over the next several days, Montgomery stated that some sleet could develop Tuesday night, along with freezing rain or drizzle.

While the Berkshires are expected to escape the brunt of the storm, 6 to 12 inches of snow could fall in the Catskills, portions of upstate New York and the Adirondacks, as well as central and northern Vermont and New Hampshire.

On Wednesday night and Thursday, the remnants of the Noreaster could yield some light to moderate snow in Berkshire County, but forecasters said it was too early to pinpoint details. The weekend shapes up as dry with seasonable temperatures. However, sunshine will be scarce.

Update: Pre-Thanksgiving storm could dump a foot of snow

A potential nor’easter developing off the Atlantic coast is expected to dump up to a foot of snow on the Berkshires, potentially crippling holiday travel for those planning getaways to visit family and friends for Thanksgiving.

A winter storm watch has been posted for the Berkshires and surrounding counties from 7 a.m. Wednesday — one of the season’s heaviest travel days on the ground and in the air — until 10 a.m. Thursday.

Snowfall totals across the Berkshires are expected to range from 10 to 12 inches, according to meteorologist Brian Frugis of the National Weather Service in Albany, N.Y.

Because the 14 U.S., European and Canadian computer models used by forecasters still differed on the precise track of the storm when it reaches the New England coast from the Outer Banks of North Carolina, the amount of snowfall and the timing remain moving targets.

“We have moderate confidence in the forecast since there are still some differences in the computer models tracking the storm,” said Frugis said.

AccuWeather forecasters recommended that travelers in western New England head to their destinations on Tuesday, if possible. The worst conditions are expected from Wednesday afternoon until Thursday morning.

The Berkshires and a large surrounding area from upstate New York into northern New England are in a 6- to 12-inch zone for total snowfall, said AccuWeather.com meteorologist Bernie Rayno in a Monday afternoon media briefing.

To the east, along the I-95 corridor from Washington, D.C., to Boston, 3 to 6 inches are likely, Rayno said, because the storm is expected to begin as rain near the coast on Wednesday morning.

The prospect of a late-autumn snowstorm comes as a rude awakening to Berkshire residents who enjoyed a spring-like Monday, with temperatures topping out at 63 in Pittsfield before mid-afternoon clouds rolled in. The high for Nov. 24 at Pittsfield Municipal Airport, 67 set in 1999, remains in the record books.

At Harriman & West Airport in North Adams, Monday’s high reached 68.

The state Department of Transportation projects nearly 1 million motorists, fueled by the lowest gas prices in 4 years and an improved economy, will hit the roads in Massachusetts during the five-day holiday period, a 4 percent increase from last year.

Nationally, according to AAA, the average distance traveled this Thanksgiving will be 549 miles round trip and Americans will spend an average of $573 on their trips during the holiday weekend Wednesday through Sunday.

 

Midweek snowstorm could disrupt travel plans

  As Berkshire travelers prepare for the turkey trot to family and friends for the annual Thanksgiving Day feast, the migration may be slowed to a crawl by a predicted mid-week winter storm.

Noting that the day before Thanksgiving ushers in one of the year’s busiest travel periods, the National Weather Service in Albany, N.Y., posted a winter storm watch from Wednesday morning until Thursday morning throughout western New England and eastern New York state.

Potential accumulations could reach 9 inches or more, according to the government forecasters, with maximum snowfall rates of up to 3 inches an hour.

“It’s a moderate-confidence forecast.” said meteorologist Ian Lee at the NWS Albany office. “A difference in the track of the storm 100 miles in either direction would affect how much snow you get in the Berkshires.”

Because the 14 U.S., European and Canadian computer models used by forecasters are all over the place with the precise track of the storm when it reaches the New England coast, details remain up in the air since the amount of snowfall and the timing remain moving targets.

Based on available data Monday morning, the snowfall is expected to begin after daybreak on Wednesday and ease up by mid-morning Thursday

Meanwhile, AccuWeather.com is going with a 6- to 10-inch snowfall for the Berkshires, with a somewhat later starting time.

“The storm should rapidly strengthen off the coast of New England on Wednesday night, leading to strong and gusty winds, especially near the coast.” stated AccuWeather meteorologist Ben Noll. “This would lead to some blowing and drifting of the snow, making travel on Wednesday night very difficult.”

“There is also an increasing likelihood for a swath of heavy snow stretching from eastern Pennsylvania through New York’s Hudson Valley and across much of New England before all is said and done,” he added. Some places across the Hudson Valley and New England could even have snow totals exceed a foot.

However, the AccuWeather forecaster cautioned, the strength, speed and route of the storm expected to gather off the Southeast coast will determine the severity of travel impacts.

Areas west of the Northeast’s I-95 corridor are at risk for enough snow to create treacherous road conditions and cause flight delays and cancellations.

In Washington, D.C., New York City, Philadelphia and Boston, rain is expected to mix in, holding down snow totals.

The latest guidance indicates that Wednesday morning travelers have the best chance of beating the storm. On Thanksgiving Day, conditions should improve rapidly.

In Massachusetts, the Department of Transportation projects nearly one million motorists, fueled by the lowest gas prices in 4 years and an improved economy, will hit the roads during the five-day holiday period, a 4 percent increase from last year.

Nationally, according to AAA, the average distance traveled this Thanksgiving will be 549 miles roundtrip and Americans will spend an average of $573 on their trips during the holiday weekend Wednesday through Sunday.

Windy rainstorm to wash away summerlike mid-October warmth

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.

Fall foliage season shaping up as spectacular in the Berkshires

With splashes of color already dotting Berkshire landscapes, the tourism-rich fall foliage season is shaping up as vibrant for admirers of nature’s paintbrush and for hospitality industry businesses seeking a spurt before winter doldrums set in.

Except for possible light rain from a coastal system on Thursday, forecasters see a prolonged spell of dry, mild weather for the next few weeks, with no killing frosts or major wind-driven rainstorms in sight.

That’s the ideal prescription for a stellar leaf-peeping season, said Mark Paquette, an AccuWeather.com meteorologist.

Farmers and gardeners can also look forward to a prolonged growing season. Sept. 25 is the average date of first frost in Berkshire County, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). No freezing temperatures are anticipated for at least several weeks.

Thanks to a steady flow of mild, Pacific air and the jet stream bottling up cold Canadian air well north of the border, “that dry, mild forecast is in place through early-to-mid October, Paquette predicted during a phone interview from State College, Pa., home of AccuWeather.

“All that spells ideal foliage conditions to a ‘T,’ he commented, adding that “no extreme weather events, such as windswept storms” are on the forecasting horizon.

The primary cause of lackluster fall colors is an extremely dry summer, Paquette explained. Even though rainfall so far this month has totaled only 1.41 inches — less than half of normal — the Berkshires and the rest of New England had plenty of soaking downpours earlier in the summer, he pointed out.

The result: Stress-free, healthy trees likely to offer their peak spectacle on schedule next month, including the prime time of Columbus Day Weekend, Oct. 11-13.

According to the USDA’s Forest Service, a prolonged string of warm, sunny days and cool, crisp but above-freezing nights contributes to the most spectacular color displays.

This produces ample sugar in the leaves during the day, while the cool nights prevents it from escaping, spurring production of pigments turning leaves red, purple and crimson.

 

On the Web:

For fall season information and frequently updated foliage maps:

www.yankeefoliage.com/live-fall-foliage-map/
www.leafpeepers.com/mass.htm
www.accuweather.com

 

Summer’s repeat performance to close by Sunday

 

Call it a summer encore, not that there has been much hot weather since a sizzling week in early July.

The back to work, back to school early-September calendar brings an inevitable end to the vacation season and a few already-visible splashes of fall color.

But the taste of heat and humidity that is enveloping the Berkshires and the rest of the Northeast this week is more typical of mid-summer.

As a result, several potentially strong thunderstorms are possible in the region during the overnight hours ahead of a more pleasant Wednesday, according to meteorologist Neil Stuart at the National Weather Service in Albany, N.Y.

A more seasonable Canadian system advancing from the Great Lakes will clash with the tropical air ensconced over the region, setting the stage for a few storms that could yield heavy rain and strong winds, the outlook stated.

After Wednesday’s cooldown, a surge of warmth is set to return for the end of the week before a return to more typical early-September weather on Sunday. The all-time high for Sept. 5 — 87 set in 1983 — may be approached, if not equaled, on Friday.

Though the current pattern is unusual for this time of year, it’s not unheard of. The all-time high at Pittsfield Municipal Airport — 95 — was set on Sept. 2, 1953, followed by 94 the next day. The National Weather Service record was tied on July 3, 1966.

On Sept. 1, 2010, a high of 90 established a record for the first day of the month.

Warm-weather enthusiasts may welcome the summer like warmth, especially after this season’s remarkably cool August, which saw a high of only 82 on the 25th.

There were no 90-degree days all summer; the high for the season, back on July 2, was a mere 88, during a month that saw 9.23 inches of rain, the fourth wettest of any month since 1938, when Pittsfield Airport records began.

According to AccuWeather’s long-range forecaster Paul Pastelok, an autumnal cold air mass from Canada could end the growing season over the interior Northeast around mid-month.