Monday, Oct. 31, 2011

Berkshire Eagle staffer Ned Oliver took this awesome time-lapse sequence of the October snowstorm from Great Barrington. He linked his camera to his computer, and set frames at 25 seconds apart. The time-lapse begins with the storm on Saturday and ends with it on Sunday.

PITTSFIELD -- If anything, the predictions were a little conservative.

A surprise nor'easter left historic, double-digit amounts of snow in virtually every Berkshire County town on Saturday night, with the hilltown of Peru having the dubious distinction of being hit the hardest: A total of 32 inches, more than 2 1/2 feet, fell in town, according to the National Weather Service in Albany. That was the most in Massachusetts, the service confirmed on Monday.

Initial predictions for this record-breaking October storm were along the lines of a foot of snow. The reality, in some spots, was more than twice that figure.

"It's not only a lot of snow, but a lot of the heaviest, wettest snow that you ever want to see out there," said Peter Judge, spokesman for the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency of the rare October storm.

State police reported more than 70 vehicles off the road throughout the county from Saturday night into Sunday morning, but no major accidents.

In terms of sheer snow depth, Berkshire County was by far the hardest hit area of the rare October storm, which blanketed much of the Northeast.

In addition to the 32 inches reported in Peru, a number of other county communities, mostly hill towns, reported 20 or more inches of snow overnight. Virtually every town in the Berkshires reported heavy snowfall figures. Pittsfield saw 18 inches, Lanesborough 17 inches, Florida and Adams 15 inches each and North Adams and Alford 14 inches each.

"This is not going to be a quick fix," Judge said. "It's totally smashing any historical records.

Jeff Rey shovels snow off of a friend’s roof in Adams on Sunday. Adams received 15 inches from the
Jeff Rey shovels snow off of a friend’s roof in Adams on Sunday. Adams received 15 inches from the (Stephanie Zollshan / Berkshire Eagle Staff)
Before this weekend, most parts of Massachusetts had seen no more than an inch of snow from an October storm, with the record closer to 6 inches in higher elevations."

Despite the staggering snow totals, however, the Berkshires were largely spared the sort of damage that struck other parts of the Northeast -- where more than 3 million homes and businesses were left without electricity as the heavy, wet snow snapped tree limbs and tore down power lines.

Both National Grid and Western Massachusetts Electric Co. reported power outages, most of which were concentrated below the Massachusetts Turnpike.

As of Sunday evening, there were still scattered power outages throughout South Berkshire County, with more than 50 each in Sheffield, Egremont and New Marlborough, according to the National Grid website. Lenox was the hardest-hit of county towns, with 884 outages as of 5 p.m. on Sunday.

The WMECO and National Grid outage website revealed that problems connected to loss of electrical power were more frequent to the east of the Berkshires, in Hampden and Hampshire Counties.

"We're told that was because while you had greater accumulations out there, the snow was not as wet and heavy as it was in other parts of New England," said WMECO spokeswoman Sandra Ahearn. "So while there was more snow, it was lighter and finer in your area."

Still, falling trees were a problem in parts of the county. One of the hardest hit downtown areas was on Main Street in Great Barrington, where the heavy snowfall brought down branches on the pear trees that line the street.

Work crews were removing debris from along that thoroughfare on Sunday. This included trimming and disposing of a considerable percentage of the branches on the trees on the street.

Most of the stores along both sides of Main Street were open, but as work crews had blocked off the parking areas to enable trucks to get to the trees, parking on Main Street along the downtown strip was extremely limited.

So although the stores were open "there aren't exactly a lot of patrons," on the street, said Tune Street employee David Grant.

The most pressing issue for many communities now was the cost of snow removal and the availability of road sand and salt.

"Once we knew on Thursday the storm was coming, we scrambled to get our snowplows and sanders ready," said Dennis Kelly, the assistant superintendent for the Lee Department of Public Works.

While the DPW had yet to receive its first shipment of road salt for the upcoming winter, Kelly did have an emergency reserve at his disposal.

"We had 400 tons left over from last winter," he noted. "I try to keep some on hand just in case."

Eagle reporter Dick Lindsay and the Associated Press contributed to this report.

Derek Gentile can be reached at dgentile@berkshireeagle.com.



Record-breaking storm

Snowfall totals throughout Berkshire County:

Peru 32 inches

Windsor 26

Savoy 24

Tyringham 23

Becket 22.6

Lenox Dale 21.7

Becket 21

Great Barrington 20.6

Dalton 20

Hinsdale 20

Pittsfield 18

Lanesborough 16

Florida 15

Adams 15

North Adams 14.5

Alford 14

Williamstown 9.5