A roller-coaster ride of wild weather spins into high gear during the next two days as the National Weather Service has posted alerts for potential high winds and possible flooding from heavy rainstorms due Wednesday night into Thursday.
With a landscape and forecast more closely resembling late March than mid-winter, the expected outbreak of severe weather — which could include thunderstorms tonight — will follow a day of near-record high temperatures that will cause rapid snow melt and a premature taste of mud season as remnants of pre-dawn black ice turn into slush and messy puddles around the Berkshires.
Although highs for Wednesday are likely to top out well into the 50s, the Pittsfield Airport record for the date — 57 in 1997 — is unlikely to be challenged unless clouds break up and allow sunshine in.
A high wind watch issued by government forecasters in Albany, N.Y., is in effect from 3 p.m. Wednesday through Thursday afternoon for a large area of eastern New York and western New England. It calls for strong, possibly damaging winds from 20 to 35 miles per hour, with gale-force gusts as high as 60 miles per hour.
The winds, which signal the leading edge of a much-colder air mass from Canada, could bring down trees and tree limbs, triggering scattered power failures.
Heavy downpours — potentially an inch or two of rain — are also expected from Wednesday evening through Thursday morning. The forecasters hoisted a flood watch because of snowmelt on ground that remains in a deep freeze, preventing the rain from being absorbed. Small-stream flooding and possible rural road washouts are on the menu, along with a chance of mud slides off steep hillsides.
The nasty brew of weather more typical of early spring is caused by a rapidly strengthening storm system from the Great Lakes that’s driving a surge of warm air into the region before a sharp cool-down on Thursday.
“With such a strong system affecting the region, it is a no-brainer that it will have a significant impact on the region,” according to lead forecaster George Magleras at the National Weather Service in Albany.
Late Wednesday night, as the leading edge of the colder air mass passes through, the rain will end, temperatures will fall sharply, high winds will persist and a slight chance of snow showers is likely into the weekend.
But no major storms are on the horizon, and while temperatures will be seasonable or slightly below normal, they’ll be less frigid than the recent intense cold snap as days gradually lengthen and the sun, when it appears, has somewhat greater strength.