The deepest of freezes

After a mostly mild winter, including above-normal temperatures on 16 of this month’s first 20 days, Berkshire residents will feel the bitter sting of a big chill, intensified by high winds, direct from the arctic, along with at least two rounds of light snow.

Following a one- to three-inch light, fluffy snowfall — expected to end by daybreak Tuesday, according to the National Weather Service in Albany, N.Y. — the core of the coldest air will settle over the region from early Wednesday through next weekend. Pre-dawn lows Wednesday are forecast in the single numbers above zero, with highs later in the day barely touching the teens.

The coastal weather system that will sideswipe the Berkshires on Tuesday could deposit up to six inches of snow in the Boston area, with the potential for close to a foot on Cape Cod and from Portsmouth, N.H., to Portland, Maine, according to Accu-Weather senior meteorologist Bernard Rayno.

By Thursday morning, readings below zero in the Berkshires may match last winter’s only short-lived cold snap, which bottomed out at minus 8 on Jan. 16, 2012. Dangerously low wind chills are expected Wednesday and Thursday. Another light snowfall is possible Friday.

In terms of climate, this week marks the coldest period of the year, according to temperature records going back to 1938 at Pittsfield Municipal Airport, with a normal range of 11 to 29. The all-time low at the airport, minus 26, was set Jan. 27, 1994, according to Eagle archives and records maintained by accuweather.com.

Along with lengthening daylight, a very gradual, milder trend starts next Monday, on average. The government’s long-range outlook indicates a significant warmup next week, but with above-average snowfall or rainfall.

–Clarence Fanto

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