As glimmers of sunlight finally broke through on Friday afternoon, Berkshire residents were clearing away a heavier-than-expected overnight snowfall that closed some schools while delaying openings at others.
But the heavy, wet flakes created a stunning, powdery late-winter snowscape captured by amateur and professional photographers.
Unofficial snow totals ranged from 4 to 11 inches countywide, with 5.6 inches recorded at Pittsfield Municipal Airport's automated weather station. Early morning road conditions were treacherous, and motorists on the MassPike were restricted to 40 mph.
A sunny, mild weekend will cause a rapid snowmelt, but there's no repeat in sight of last year's March meteorological madness that saw a high of 64 on March 8 and a six-day string of above-70 highs not long thereafter that had golfers teeing off and sun worshippers basking on benches and at lakesides.
March is well-known for weather extremes -- heavy snowfalls and even an occasional blizzard in some years and, at the other extreme, the memorable heat wave that set the all-time high-temperature record for the month at Pittsfield Municipal Airport: 89 on March 31, 1998.
But on Friday, recollections of last year's golfer's delight became this year's skier's and snowboarder's frolic in some of the most pristine, ideal conditions of the season for winter-recreation enthusiasts.
The snowfall that lasted for close to 18 hours in most of the county confounded forecasters' expectations as a coastal storm hugged the New England shoreline, a closer approach than computer models had foretold. At the same time, an approaching weather system from the Great Lakes melded into the offshore storm, intensifying the snowfall in eastern New England.
The National Weather Service in Taunton, near Boston, reported some jackpot snow totals from spotters and observers: 24.4 inches in Holden, a town in Worcester County; 23 inches in Staffordville, a small town in Tolland County, Conn.; 19 inches in Taunton; 18.5 inches in Manchester, Conn., near Hartford; 18 inches in Framingham; and 12.8 inches at Logan Airport in East Boston.
There's no more accumulating snow in the forecast for next week, but whether Friday's storm was winter's last gasp remains to be seen. Snow has been measured in Berkshire County as late as May 19.
To contact Clarence Fanto:
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Here are unofficial storm totals as reported to the National Weather Service in Albany, N.Y., by trained spotters and observers:
Savoy: 11 inches
North Otis: 10 inches
Sheffield: 8 inches
Lenox: 8 inches
Williamstown: 6.3 inches
Pittsfield Municipal Airport: 5.6 inches
Hancock: 5.4 inches
Alford: 5 inches
Clarksburg: 4.8 inches
Richmond: 4.5 inches
Lanesborough: 4.5 inches