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.