The “springtime in December” party is over.
Following the return of below-freezing daytime temperatures in the Berkshires, forecasters have issued their first winter weather alert of the season, ending the record-breaking “snow drought” that has bedeviled winter sports enthusiasts, causing multi-million dollar losses to area ski resorts, but delighted residents reaping significant heating fuel savings.
A winter weather advisory is posted for 7 p.m. Monday until 7 p.m. Tuesday as a storm from the Midwest draws a bead on the Northeast. Snow is expected to break out before midnight in the Berkshires, according to meteorologist Thomas Wasula at the National Weather Service in Albany, N.Y.
Ahead of a pre-dawn changeover to freezing rain, 2 to 4 inches of snow and sleet may be on the ground, with higher amounts in north Berkshire and southern Vermont, and lower totals in south Berkshire. The early morning mix could coat parts of the county with a glaze of ice, especially south of Pittsfield, before all areas switch to plain rain by midday.
“The worst travel conditions will be Monday night into Tuesday morning,” said AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Brett Anderson. “Roads that are not treated will become treacherous.”
Hazardous travel is likely during the drive to work on Tuesday, government and private forecasters predicted. Up to a quarter-inch of ice buildup is possible countywide before temperatures rise from predawn lows in the mid-20s into the upper 30s later in the day. Any remaining ice and slush on roadways is expected to melt away in time for the evening drive home.
The winter weather advisory includes a possibility of scattered power blackouts in areas that see the greatest buildup of ice. High winds gusting to 30 miles per hour are possible.
Assuming all goes according to plan, the region will set a new record on Tuesday for the latest arrival of snow. The previous date for the latest-arriving, first measurable snowfall of the season was Dec. 24, 1912.
The economic hit to the region’s ski industry, hotels and restaurants has been severe, said Tyler Fairbank, president of Jiminy Peak Mountain Resort in Hancock.
But the area’s “Snowmaggedon” system of laying down a thick blanket of white had been up and running since 2 a.m., he said in a late-morning update. Jiminy is tentatively planning to reopen on Tuesday.
“This has been absolutely the worst start to a ski season,” Fairbank declared. “We have a multimillion dollar hole to dig our way out of.”
He and his father, Brian, co-founder of Jiminy and chairman of the Fairbank Group, had been on the front lines of the massive snowmaking operation all morning. “My father is 69 and is still absolutely passionate about snowmaking and is as smart about it as anyone in the industry,” Tyler Fairbank asserted.
Noting that Jiminy has had only minimal work for its 1,000 employees, most of them seasonal, he emphasized that ski areas throughout the Northeast — including the Fairbank Group’s Bromley Mountain in southern Vermont and Cranmore in North Conway, N.H. — have suffered economically.
“This has been a huge hit to the industry,” Fairbank stressed. “But winter is going to happen and it will be a longer, lingering finish.” Long-range forecasters used by Jiminy are predicting a “very wintry 90 days ahead,” he added.
“We’re taking full advantage of our super-powerful snowmaking plant to get snow on the slopes,” Fairbank said. “In this business, you have to take the long view and plan accordingly. This has hurt but it comes with the territory and we’ll be doing everything we can over the balance of the year to put more skiers on the mountain and get out of the business hole.”
The possibility of a minor winter storm is also a boon for snow-removal contractors who have been deprived of early-season income so far. In an average season, the Berkshires would have seen 23 inches of snow by now.
High temperature marks were shattered with a Christmas Eve high of 67 at Pittsfield Municipal Airport and 70 at Harriman and West Airport in North Adams. Christmas Day also saw historic warmth in both cities, with 61 in Pittsfield and 59 in North Adams.
Despite more typical readings this week, the month remains on track to go down as the warmest December at the Pittsfield airport, where government agency records date back to 1938.
No significant snowfall is on the horizon later this week and over the New Year’s holiday weekend. Milder air at mid-week will give way to more seasonable readings by Saturday, but still somewhat above normal — the normal range at the Pittsfield airport is 14 to 30 at the end of this month.
Temperatures have averaged 13 degrees above normal every day since Dec. 1, and record highs have been recorded on six days.
At a Glance . . .
Snow arrival: By midnight Monday.
Changeover to sleet: By 4 a.m. Tuesday.
Changeover to freezing rain: By 7 a.m. Tuesday.
Wintry mix changes to rain: By 11 a.m. Tuesday.
Snow-sleet total: 2-4 inches.
Ice buildup: Up to 0.4 inches.
Hazardous travel: 1 a.m. to 11 a.m. Tuesday.
Sources: National Weather Service, AccuWeather.com