Thursday January 3, 2013

Special to The Eagle

PITTSFIELD -- A bone-chilling cold snap sent pre-dawn temperatures below zero in many Berkshire locations early Thursday.

The early morning low at Pittsfield Municipal Airport, minus 2, was well below average for early January, but above the record of minus 10 set in 1981. The normal range for Jan. 3 is 13 to 30 degrees. The all-time Pittsfield low was minus 26 set on Jan. 27, 1994, at the airport, where weather record-keeping began in 1938.

In North Adams, the overnight low set at 7 a.m. was minus 6 at Harriman & West Airport, tied with the town of Orange for the coldest in the state.

Government and private forecasters promise a return to seasonable conditions over the next seven days, with no storms in sight and only the potential for minor outbreaks of snow.

According to the National Weather Service in Albany, N.Y., the Berkshires may see a period of light snow Sunday morning and again on Sunday night. The current foot-deep snowpack is expected to remain intact as daytime highs struggle to approach freezing on Friday and over the weekend.

Other pre-dawn Berkshire lows (all unofficial) included minus 4 in Cheshire, minus 3 in Lanesborough, minus 5 in Great Barrington, minus 7 in Cheshire, and an unverified minus 14 at a private weather station in the Five Corners historic district of South Williamstown.


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Slightly more moderate minimums were recorded elsewhere in the county, including 2 degrees in Peru and Windsor, 1 degree in Becket, 5 degrees at Otis Reservoir in East Otis, and the area's "hot spot" on this occasion, 7 degrees in Sandisfield.

Easing the deep freeze for schoolchildren awaiting their bus pickups and early morning dog walkers was a nearly calm wind in most sections except North Adams, where the Tunnel City's valley geography produced a minus 19 wind chill as the sun rose.

The Wednesday morning deep freeze served as a reminder that despite the less-severe winter temperatures typical of recent years, a handful of below-zero mornings remains par for the course in the Berkshires.

In its review of 2012 issued this week by the government forecast office in Albany, last year's average temperature at Pittsfield Municipal Airport clocked in at 48.8 degrees, a significant 3.5 degrees above normal. According to Eagle files and records maintained by AccuWeather.com, it was the warmest year recorded in Pittsfield since measurements began 74 years ago.

Last year saw three 90-degree or above days in Pittsfield, with highs of 91 on June 20 and July 17, while the year's low at the airport was minus 8 on Jan. 16.

Precipitation totaling 36.35 inches (including melted snowfall) was far below the normal of 45.38 inches and a stark contrast to the monsoon-like year of 2011, with 59.46 inches, including the late-August deluge produced by Tropical Storm Irene.

In Albany, according to the National Weather Service, the 51.6 degree average temperature made 2012 the warmest year in the state capital since 1820, when records began. The previous record, 51.4 degrees, was set in 1828. Albany saw 13 days with 90 degree or higher temperatures last year, including a furnace-like 98 set on July 17.

To contact Clarence Fanto:
cfanto@yahoo.com or (413) 637-2551.
On Twitter: @BE_cfanto