With temperatures plunging toward season lows later this week following the arrival of an Arctic air mass on Monday, forecasters are issuing an early heads-up for a prolonged, possibly significant snowfall over the Northeast beginning Wednesday night.

Since the final track of two storm systems heading into New England from the Midwest and the Southeast remains unclear, the intensity and total depth of the snow remains uncertain.

As a sneak preview, a light snowfall of an inch or so could whiten the Berkshire landscape today as winds howl and the thermometer continues its free fall.

An even deeper freeze starting on Wednesday will lead to a predicted low of about minus 10 Friday night, with wind chills approaching minus 20 to minus 30.

"We're anticipating a storm to develop, and how it develops will be incredibly challenging to watch," said meteorologist Brian Montgomery at the National Weather Service in Albany, N.Y.

As he and his colleagues sifted through a batch of incoming, and conflicting, computer predictions on Monday afternoon, the potential for snow on Thursday into Friday ranged from a routine several inches up to a foot of snow, Montgomery noted.

Whether or not the storm lives up to its potential, the Berkshires and the rest of the Northeast can count on the coldest temperatures of the season so far. On Friday, daytime highs will struggle to reach 10 degrees, Montgomery said. Over the weekend a moderating trend will return temperatures to near-seasonable levels.


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"It will be a very difficult couple of days all across the Northeast on Thursday and Friday," he noted. "People planning to travel just after the New Year's holiday should be especially vigilant."

At New England Cable News in Boston, meteorologist Matt Noyes acknowledged a wide range of scenarios for later this week, ranging from a typical plowable snowfall to a blockbuster.

"The average snowfall from similar atmospheric setups in history has yielded an average of 6 to 10 inches of snow, so that's a good starting point for southern New England," he stated. "Amounts could be much higher, with blizzard conditions Friday morning and snow extending well into Northern New England, too, if a stronger of the potential scenarios verifies."

To contact Clarence Fanto:
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