Friday February 26, 2010

PITTSFIELD -- With rain and rising temperatures turning the new-fallen snow into slush, Berkshire County officials worked to prevent drainage flooding as well as to prepare for even more storms ahead.

"I am concerned about street flooding," said Deputy Chief Mark Cancilla of the Pittsfield Fire Department. "If we get heavy rains like we're supposed to, like an inch or so, I'm a little concerned about the drains flooding."

According to Pittsfield's Department of Public Works Commissioner Bruce Collingwood, Pittsfield experienced slight flooding because of rain and clogged drainage in areas such as Leona Drive, Hamlin Street and Lebanon Avenue, as temperatures in Pittsfield and North Adams broke 40 degrees. The National Weather Service estimated that Pittsfield received close to a quarter of an inch of rain.

"With the amount of snow we got, we're trying to push things back to make sure that the stormwater and the rain can drain into the catch basin system," Collingwood said. "The work they do [Thursday] will make the workflow [today] a lot easier."

Cancilla said that his department had answered a few calls yesterday to deal with one case of mild flooding and downed wires because of the remaining snow.

Meanwhile, fire departments in North Adams, Dalton and Otis said they had not received any phone calls for flooding. The National Weather Service said that Savoy also gained another two inches of additional snowfall.

With the county still digging out of more than a foot of snow that hit on Tuesday and Wednesday, however, weather officials have estimated that the winter resurgence isn't over yet, with a winter storm warning beginning this morning and continuing through Saturday.

"[Thursday night] the winds are going to be howling, especially around the higher terrain," said Hugh Johnson, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service. "We think the winds could exceed 60 miles an hour in gusts."

Johnson described the upcoming storm patterns as "unconventional," making a loop before it moved to the Northeast. He expected that snow would start falling again in the county early this morning, and could drop between 5 and 12 inches of snow by the end of the day.

"The heaviest precipitation will be over by [this] morning," Johnson said, agreeing that street flooding was the biggest hazard for the upcoming storm. "But the storm is going to be spinning around through the weekend, so we may not clear that area till Monday."

With six DPU staffers patrolling Pittsfield with plows and backhoes, Collingwood said, the city's flood rate has been mostly manageable.

"We've been lucky," he said, but added that tomorrow's mixed precipitation could make for a different situation. "In this case, you've got to be reactive... we've done as much as we can to be proactive, and now we'll be in a reactive mode."

To reach David Pepose:
dpepose@berkshireeagle.com.
or (413) 496-6240.