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.

 

 

Unusual warm spell greets new month, but not for long

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

Thee early-September calendar brings the 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 to severe thunderstorms are possible in western New England late on Tuesday, especially after dark, according to meteorologist Paul Caiano of WAMC Northeast Public Radio and WNYT Channel 13.

A slightly cooler air mass advancing from the Great Lakes will clash with the heat and humidity, setting the stage for storms that could be more numerous and powerful on Wednesday, Caiano stated.

After a slight respite on Wednesday, an even stronger surge of warmth is set to return for the end of the work and school week before a cooldown by Sunday. The all-time high for Sept. 5 — 87 set in 1983 — may be equaled.

Though the current weather pattern is unusual for the 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 new record high of 90 was set for the first day of the month.

Warm-weather enthusiasts may welcome the burst of unseasonable warmth, especially after this summer’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.

New climate change reports bode ill for the planet

 

Welcome to the New Abnormal.

Berkshirites are shaking their heads at the past two months of wild, wacky weather. We’ve had a record deluge of nearly 17 inches since June 1 — that equals about five months’ worth of rain, on average.

While it may be hard to believe, we’ve had a wetter July — in 2009, with 11.5 inches recorded at Pittsfield Municipal Airport, where the U.S. government maintains an automated observation station. The modern record-holder for the most rain in June remains the year 2000, with 8.7 inches.

But, sifting through 75 years of National Weather Service data, we’ve not found a June and July combined total that rivals this year’s.

The flash floods have been frequent, and damaging in spots, as have the intense thunderstorms and even a tornado with 90-mile-an-hour winds that touched down briefly in Dalton last Sunday afternoon. The city of Revere, just north of Boston, had a more severe and destructive twister on Monday morning — extremely rare for that coastal area.

We’ve had unusually cool days this summer, though not caused by a version of the “polar vortex” that hyperbolic TV and online weathercasters claim. There has been a lack of intense or prolonged summer heat — the peak so far was 88 on July 2, with an 86-degree day later in the month. But plenty of tropical humidity and frequent cloud cover has put a damper on normal summertime routines.

No doubt, climate change has had dramatic, and in some cases, unpredictable effects nationally and worldwide. Much of California remains in an extreme or exceptional drought, with a wildfire season now encompassing much of the year instead of late summer.

As a new National Climactic Data Center report found, Planet Earth continues to heat up. June was the warmest on record, based on global averages, and so was May. The center, part of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), based its findings on data from 2,000 weather stations worldwide. It records go back to 1880.

Of course, local results vary. After a much colder than normal winter, Berkshire County temperatures have been close to average in recent months. The lead scientist for the Climactic Data Center and author of the latest global report emphasizes that global trends often are not reflected in specific areas.

While the Northeast has been spared heat waves and portions of the South and Midwest have been unusually chilly for this time of year, the Arctic and Greenland as well as much of Asia, Africa and South America broke records for warmth in June — more than 30 nations in all.

Some skeptics continue to argue with the overall findings even though they’re based on the conclusions of 425 scientists representing 57 countries, but NOAA’s latest annual report, released last month and available online, carries a great deal of weight and bears up under scrutiny. (See for yourself at www.noaanews.noaa.gov)

“These findings reinforce what scientists for decades have observed: that our planet is becoming a warmer place,” stated NOAA Administrator Kathryn Sullivan. “This report provides the foundational information we need to develop tools and services for communities, business and nations to prepare for and build resilience to the impacts of climate change.”

The detailed report cites a continuing increase in greenhouse gasses, with all-time high levels found at observation stations in Hawaii and the Arctic.

Four separate databanks found that 2013 was somewhere between the second and sixth warmest on record; Australia was definitely the warmest ever.

Surface ocean temperatures continued to rise, as did sea levels. The Arctic had one of its warmest years in the past century and the region’s sea ice continued to erode.

With no action in sight in the U.S. or other major polluting nations such as China and India, the lack of political will to confront climate change will cause much grief in the years to come. But energy conservation is well worth a full-throttle effort while we wait in vain for the Washington gridlock to break.

 

Not again! Another stormy Monday greets the Berkshires

If rainy days and Mondays always get you down, welcome to yet another soggy start to the work week.

A series of pre-dawn storms rolled through Berkshire County, sparking intense lightning and thunder, causing a deluge of more than an inch of rain during a two-hour period in some areas, as well as numerous downed trees, utility lines and flooded roadways.

For some portions of the county, it was the second bout of severe weather in 12 hours. Area police and fire units were kept busy responding to reports of localized flooding and wind damage.

The torrential rain, which followed a fast-moving late-afternoon Sunday storm over central and southern portions of the county, prompted the National Weather Service in Albany, N.Y., to issue a flood advisory because the ground is saturated from nearly two months of far above-average rainfall.

Minor flooding of urban and low-lying areas was occurring, the advisory stated, adding that some roadways may be overwhelmed with runoff, causing dangerous driving conditions.

Dalton was especially hard hit by the fast-moving storm on Sunday, as high winds caused widespread damage, prompting local officials to declare a state of emergency in order to try to secure federal or state aid.

The official 24-hour rainfall total reported from the National Weather Service’s observation station at Pittsfield Municipal Airport was 1.95 inches as of 7 a.m. Monday, most of it from the early-morning downpour. At Harriman and West Airport in North Adams, 1.28 inches were measured during the same period.

Weather spotters for Channel 6 in Schenectady, N.Y., reported 3.21 inches of rain had fallen in Pittsfield, 2.2 inches in Lanesborough, a half-inch in Savoy and 0.41 inches in Clarksburg.

On top of the 7.55 inches of rain recorded at the Pittsfield airport in June — nearly double the average — a total of 8 inches and counting has been measured so far this month. The combined total is approaching a 75-year two-month record for the city, according to long-term government data.

Government and private forecasters predicted more thunderstorms and heavy rain are possible later on Monday as an unseasonably strong system passes through western New England, dragging the leading edge of cooler air with it. There’s a slight risk of more severe storms into the evening, according to the government’s Storm Prediction Center in Norman, Okla.

Looking ahead, Tuesday and Wednesday should be dry but unusually cool for late July, with a return to normal temperatures as well as more showers and thunderstorms on Thursday and Friday. The early long-range outlook continues the possibility of rainy weather for the weekend.

 

Once again, Berkshire targeted for severe weather potential

For the sixth straight week, the Berkshires can anticipate the same weather pattern — several days of possibly heavy rainfall and gusty winds from time to time, accompanied by potentially intense thunderstorms fueled by tropical humidity. The payoff, yet again: True-blue daytime skies with clear overnights, thanks to refreshingly pleasant air from Canada, from Wednesday into the weekend.

“The region could get walloped,” predicted AccuWeather.com meteorologist Henry Margusity, describing the threat covering western New England and nearby New York state until mid-week. The leading edge of cooler air could produce severe storms, most likely on Tuesday, he said in a video posting. Wind damage, hail and even isolated tornadoes are part of the brew.

AccuWeather is predicting 3.5 inches of rain in Pittsfield and South Berkshire, slightly more in North County, by early Wednesday. The two-day total could approach a full month’s-worth if it develops as predicted.

A flash flood watch remains in effect for Berkshire County, eastern New York and nearby Connecticut until 6 a.m. Wednesday, according to the National Weather Service in Albany. Multiple rounds of showers and thunderstorms are expected to move through a warm, very humid airmass, the NWS predicted, with torrential downpours and total rainfall up to 3 inches. Higher amounts are possible where storms slow down and remain in place over a specific location.

At times, rain may fall at the rate of more than one inch an hour. Since the ground is already soaked by recent heavy downpours, the flash flood potential is enhanced, according to the government forecasters’ alert that went into effect at 2 p.m. on Monday.

The greatest potential for the heaviest rain was focused on Tuesday, NWS forecaster Kevin Lipton stated.

At Pittsfield Municipal Airport, 10.4 inches of rain have been recorded since June 3, compared to a six-week normal of 6.5 inches. Rivers and streams are running fast and high, forecasters noted, and another period of intense downpours could lead to more runoff damage in lower-lying areas of the county.

Several hard-hit towns in south Berkshire have been shoring up poor-drainage areas to prevent a repetition of washouts during the June 25 storm that dropped four inches of rain — a month’s worth — in about five hours.

Weather records at Harriman and West Airport in North Adams show a six-week total of 7.17 inches, reflecting comparably frequent but less-intense rainfall over North Berkshire, though still significantly above average.