National Weather Service issues highest-level fire danger alert

Because of tinder dry conditions in the woods, exceptionally low humidity, strong mid-April sunshine and gusty winds, the National Weather Service has issued its highest-level alert for potential brush or forest fires.

The red flag warning for Berkshire County, Bennington County in Vermont and eastern New York is in effect from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Wednesday.

“Conditions today appear likely to produce potentially dangerously large and rapidly spreading fires,” forecaster Hugh Johnson of the government’s Albany, N.Y., office stated. During the midday and afternoon, above-normal temperatures in the 60s combined with desert-like humidity below 30 percent and winds gusting to near 25 miles an hour will raise the risk, especially in valley areas.

By nightfall, calm winds and increased moisture in the air should reduce the potential for fires, Johnson noted. Temperatures are expected to dip to freezing or below before dawn on Thursday.

The next chance of showers is on Thursday night and Friday, but any rain is expected to be light, and dry conditions are likely to persist in wooded areas.

Here are the highlights of the National Weather Service’s red flag warning:

Timing: 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Wednesday.

Impacts: Fires may spread rapidly and uncontrollably.A red flag warning means that dangerous fire weather conditions are expected due to the combination of gusty winds, low relativ humidities and dry woods and brush. Any fires that develop may quickly get out of control and become difficult to contain.

Locations: Berkshire County, southern Vermont, eastern New York, with the greatest threat in valley areas.

Winds: Northwest 10 to 15 mph with gusts to around 25 mph.

Humidity: Exceptionally low, upper teens to mid-20 percent range.

Temperatures: Upper 60s in valley areas, mid-50s across higher terrain.

Source: National Weather Service, Albany, N.Y., as of 7 a.m. Wednesday.

Spring has sprung? Sure, with light snow on the way

Live by the calendar, and you’ll do a dance at 6:45 p.m. Friday to greet the official arrival of spring — also known as the vernal equinox, when day and night are roughly equal everywhere.

Live by the sky, and you’ll growl as the season is greeted by another snowfall, according to National Weather Service predictions of an inch or two in the Berkshires by Saturday morning — very little in North County, a tad more in South County.

Longtime residents know that the spring season is a sometime thing here — it can erupt suddenly, like in 1945, when record highs of 81 were set on March 28 and 29 (tied on March 30, 1968) and in 1998, with a summery record of 86 on March 31.

More often than not, winter tends to be reluctant to release its icy grip on the region. There was the infamous two-inch snowfall on May 18, 2002 — the latest on record in the county — and before that the not fondly-remembered Mother’s Day snowfall on May 9, 1977, with up to 8 inches.

In 1816, the so-called year without summer, historians have suggested that New England saw snowflakes in June.

Although the books aren’t closed on the winter-weather season — never mind the calendar — frustrated residents hardly need to be reminded how February was the coldest since 1943, while this month and January have also been below normal, though not as drastically.

Heating and electricity bills have soared, dangerous ice holds firm on driveways and walkways, auto body shops are backlogged with scheduled repairs for vehicles damaged by snowbank accidents and, more recently, pothole fury. Armchair gamblers are betting on how late in the spring the last vestiges of piled-up snow will finally vanish from parking lots, street corners and other plow-favored final resting places.

Although total snowfall for the season, 79.6 inches at Pittsfield Municipal Airport, is only slightly above the area average of 76 inches and far short of the 1995-96 humdinger record of 146.6 inches, the constant below-freezing nights have slowed down snowmelt. Even the higher-angle late March sunlight isn’t making a big dent in the off-road snowpack.

On the bright side, hydrologists at the National Weather Service in Albany, N.Y., credit the continuous cold and lack of heavy rain for avoiding — so far — waterway flooding and ice jams. A gradual, inch-by-inch snowmelt is the best prescription for a trouble-free mud season, they say.

Any spring weather on the horizon? Unlikely, says AccuWeather.com, as wave upon wave of Arctic air continue to invade the Northeast.

“Longer daylight hours and strengthening sunshine will negate some of the chill,” according to AccuWeather Meteorologist Alex Sosnowski. “Unfortunately, a long-lasting warm spell is not in the forecast anytime soon as more waves of cold air will continue to move in.”

Through early April, below-average temperatures should outnumber warmer-than-average days by at least two to one in the Northeast, he added. For the rest of March, normals in the Berkshires range from lows in the mid-20s to highs in the mid-40s.

Along the same lines, the long-range outlook released on Thursday by the government’s Climate Prediction Center near Washington, D.C., predicted colder-than-normal weather for New England and New York state all through April.

Another record-setting bonechiller; no relief in sight

As the sun rose over a deep-frosted Berkshire landscape, temperatures courtesy of the Siberian Express ended their all-night free fall with record lows for the date early Tuesday morning.

The 7 a.m. reading of 9 below at the National Weather Service’s Pittsfield Municipal Airport automated observation station shattered the old record of 2 below set in 1948. It was the second one-day record set this month. The coldest morning, 14 below last Saturday, tied the previous record for Feb. 21 set in 1966.

In North Adams, the 6 a.m. reading of 12 below at Harriman & West Airport was among the coldest in the county — only Adams and South Williamstown (14 below) and Egremont (16 below) were frostier.

The trophy for coldest in the immediate tri-state area went to Stamford, Vt., just north of Clarksburg, where a weather observer reported 18 below shortly before dawn.

Across Massachusetts, Chicopee Falls held the dubious low-temperature honor, also 18 below.

With temperatures predicted to remain well below normal for the remaining four days of the month, February is still on track to tie or break the previous coldest month on record — February 1943. Pitsfield Airport historical records go as far back as 1938.

The only bright spots weary residents could point to were calm winds at daybreak and a five-day forecast that indicated no significant snowfalls in sight and daytime highs well up in the 30s this Sunday.

However, a storm system late Sunday and Monday will have to be closely watched in case it makes a closer approach to the region than currently indicated by most computer models.

Looking ahead, the government’s Climate Prediction Center in College Park, Md., is offering a bleak outlook for the first 10 days of March, with below normal temperatures continuing for western New England, along with an active storm track that could yield more snowfall.

Normal for Pittsfield in late February ranges from 18 to 37, improving to lows of 20 and highs of 40 by March 8, when Daylight Saving Time returns.

As a result, according to AccuWeather.com’s senior meteorologist Brett Anderson, “temperatures in the Northeast will still average below normal, but they will be much less extreme.” In Berkshire County, the likely outcome will be overnight lows in the teens and daytime highs in the 30s.

Bring out the beach chairs!

FACTBOX:

How Cold Did It Get?

Here are the early-morning lows in the Berkshire County region as reported to the National Weather Service:

Stamford, Vt. -18
Egremont -16
Adams -14
South Williamstown -14
North Adams (Airport) -12
Great Barrington -12
Windsor -10
Otis -10
Savoy -9
Pittsfield (Airport) -10

Source: National Weather Service in Albany, N.Y.; only the airport readings are considered official, since the others are crowd-sourced.

 

Weekend storm could brew an icy mix, then more Siberian Express

If it’s the weekend, it must be time to brace for yet another winter storm.

But this one, originating in the lower Mississippi Valley and drawing in Gulf of Mexico moisture, could transition to an icy mix early Sunday, especially south of Pittsfield, according to forecaster Hugh Johnson at the National Weather Service in Albany, N.Y.

On Saturday, temperatures may actually approach 30 as snow arrives before dark, he predicted. The best chance of sleet and possibly freezing rain mixing in with the snow before dawn on Sunday is in South Berkshire, as temperatures hold steady or even rise slightly.

By noon on Sunday, most of the snow and any mixture should move out of the area, and if any sunshine breaks out during the afternoon, temperatures could reach above freezing for the first time in 12 days.

But on Monday, the polar pattern persists as “bouts of Arctic air continue to plunge into the region through the week,” the government forecast stated.

Total snowfall over the weekend is expected to be moderate, ranging from 3 to 6 inches, according to the NWS and AccuWeather.com.

Well in advance of the storm, Pittsfield’s Public Works Commissioner Bruce Collingwood announced a snow emergency in the city from 10 p.m. Saturday until 7 a.m. on Monday.

Parking will not be permitted during that time except on North Street, where it will be allowed between 7 a.m. and 4 p.m. on Sunday and Monday. Municipal parking lots will be off limits between midnight and 7 a.m. on Sunday and Monday so they can be plowed and sanded.

As usual, violators may have their vehicles towed at their own expense.

Once skies clear on Monday, winter-weary Berkshirites have nothing to look forward to but more below-zero overnights and daytime highs struggling to get into the teens.

As private forecasters and TV weather personalities have pointed out, “polar vortex” as a catchphrase is so last year.

Now, it’s the “Siberian Express” that’s making life miserable for many millions, according to AccuWeather.com.

By way of explanation, the online forecasting service notes that from Siberia, additional waves of cold air will continue to roll into the Eastern states. The cross-polar flow, as it is called, travels thousands of miles across the North Pole, over frozen tundra, seas of ice and snow cover. As a result, it experiences little moderation when it reaches the U.S.

The current polar outbreak covers most of the eastern U.S. Even in Florida, several low-temperature records were set for the date — 33 in Orlando, 42 in Miami on Friday.

No break is in sight over the next 10 days, according to AccuWeather.com Chief Meteorologist Elliot Abrams. He compared the cold wave to previous records set in the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s.

Despite brilliant sunshine in the Berkshires, Friday was one of the winter’s most brutal days as wind chills recorded at Pittsfield Municipal Airport ranged from 40 below before dawn to 10 below in the early afternoon.

Gusts as high as 39 mph combined with air temperatures bottoming out at minus 6 made prolonged exposure to the elements especially hazardous.

It was the 9th morning of below zero minimums at the airport this month and the 18th of the winter.

In North Adams, the early morning low of minus 2 produced a wind chill of 30 below, as observed at Harriman and West Airport.

During the first week of March, as daylight lengthens and sunshine strengthens, temperatures may recover to only slightly below normal, AccuWeather stated.

 

FACTBOX:

Day by Day. . .

Saturday: Snow, mainly after 4pm, high 27, lighter winds.
Sunday: Overnight snowfall ends before noon; slight chance of rain or snow showers later. High 34. Total snowfall 3-6 inches.
Monday: Partly cloudy, high 10, overnight low minus 9.
Tuesday: Sunny, high 15.
Wednesday: A 40 percent chance of overnight snow continuing during the day. High around 26.
Thursday: Partly cloudy, early low 4, daytime high 18.

Source: National Weather Service forecast for Berkshire County.

Long-duration snowstorm lived up to predictions

Berkshire County is enjoying a brief lull in the wintry weather action before a very deep freeze at the end of the week. Some snow is possible Thursday and perhaps early next week.

 

Here are the National Weather Service snowfall totals for the area:

 

.BERKSHIRE COUNTY...
   SAVOY                 16.4   509 PM  2/09  WEATHERNET6
   NORTH ADAMS           16.0   757 PM  2/09  AMATEUR RADIO
   DALTON                13.0   320 PM  2/09  FACEBOOK
   LANESBOROUGH          10.5   443 PM  2/09  WEATHERNET6
   LENOX DALE            10.5   755 PM  2/09  FACEBOOK
   CLARKSBURG             8.0   422 AM  2/10  WEATHERNET6
   PITTSFIELD             7.5   603 AM  2/10  WEATHERNET6

Berkshires brace for another snowfall; 10-14 inches predicted

Not again!

Winter-weary Berkshirites braced themselves on Sunday for yet another significant snowfall — the fifth in the past 12 days.

Though the latest in a parade of storms was slow in arriving on Sunday, the National Weather Service continues to predict 10 to 14 inches over the county, said meteorologist Joe Villani in the Albany office. Most of it will come down from early morning to mid-evening on Monday, he added.

A winter storm warning first issued by the government forecasters on Saturday continues in effect until 6 a.m. Tuesday.

The current storm, which was steadily advancing into New England from New York state late Sunday, shapes up as “one of the longer-duration events than we typically see in the winter,” Villani pointed out.

Both the morning and the evening commutes on Monday will be impacted by hazardous road conditions, he emphasized. The storm results from the leading edge of colder air stalled just south of the region, triggering a series of weak to moderate low-pressure systems.

Once again, the Boston area, with three feet of snow piled up in the past two weeks, is preparing for another major snowfall, with 12 to 14 inches on the way. Schools in the city were shut down for both Monday and Tuesday.

As of Sunday afternoon, AccuWeather.com was predicting 16 inches for Pittsfield, 18 inches for North County, and just under a foot for South Berkshire.

So far this winter, 55.5 inches of snow have been measured by the National Weather Service observation station at Pittsfield Municipal Airport, not including Sunday’s total. At Harriman and West Airport in North Adams, 43.6 inches have fallen.

Though no records have been set, the season has a long way to go. Normal October to May snowfall is 78 inches in Pittsfield, slightly less in North Adams, according to long-term averages.

Brutal, unrelenting cold has been even more frustrating for many residents.

So far this month, readings have been a stunning 8 degrees below normal, following January’s average of 3 below normal. Through Feb. 7, daily highs and lows were sharply lower than the 77-year average at Pittsfield Airport for 13 days, and the typical January thaw was nowhere to be seen.

On Feb. 6, the early-morning minus 9 set a new record low for the date. Daily readings have been taken at the Pittsfield Airport since 1938.

Anyone looking for relief from the deep freeze won’t find any comfort in the longer-range outlook.

“A blast of Arctic air will deliver the coldest weather so far this winter to the Northeast,” AccuWeather meteorologist Brian Lada stated.

The polar onslaught is due at the end of the week, with overnight lows in the Berkshires ranging from minus 10 early Saturday to minus 6 on Sunday. Daytime highs will struggle to reach 10 above.

Contributing to the misery will be strong winds, said Villani at the NWS. “The wind chill factor will be extremely low and dangerous, adding another layer of hazard with 20 to even 30 below zero from Friday through Sunday,” he predicted.

“What makes this stretch of Arctic air different than previous cold spells this winter is the duration,” according to meteorologist Becky Elliott of AccuWeather.

No daily highs above freezing are foreseen until Feb. 21.

Winter Storm Warning . . .

The National Weather Service’s warning is in effect until 6 a.m. Tuesday.

Hazards: Persistent accumulating snow.

Accumulations: 10-14 inches in the Berkshires, 9 to 18 inches elsewhere in the region,through Monday night.

Maximum snowfall rates: One-half to one inch per hour through Monday morning.

Timing: Steady snowfall, moderate in intensity at times, tapering off late Monday evening into Monday night before ending.

Inpacts: Hazardous travel conditions due to snow- covered roadways and reduced visibilities for a prolonged period of time.

Source: National Weather Service, Albany, N.Y., as of 4 p.m. Sunday.

Monday snowstorm dropped a foot on Berkshires

Berkshire Snowfall:

Monday’s snowstorm lived up to its advance billing. The National Weather Service had predicted 8-16 inches for the Berkshires. Here are some early evening totals:

PITTSFIELD 13.2 inches
LANESBOROUGH 13 inches
SHEFFIELD 13 inches
NORTH ADAMS 12 inches
SAVOY 11.9 inches
LENOX 11.2 inches

Sources: National Weather Service and public reports.

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.