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.
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.