The first major winter storm of the season in the Northeast region expected to pack quite a wallop along the coast from New York City to Washington, D.C., this weekend.
But for the Berkshires and southern Vermont, it could be a near-miss, according to a consensus of government and private forecasters.
AccuWeather.com is forecasting only an inch or two of snow for Berkshire County on Saturday — a bit more south of the MassPike, a bit less north of Pittsfield. Southern Vermont is expected to see less than an inch in Bennington County, and about an inch in Windham County, which includes Brattleboro.
If so, the area will continue far below normal for winter season snowfall so far.
As of Wednesday, only 4.9 inches had been recorded at Pittsfield Municipal Airport, compared to an average of about 35 inches by mid-January. Slightly higher totals for the season to date were reported from airports in North Adams (5.2 inches), Bennington, Vt. (8 inches), and Brattleboro, Vt. (6 inches).
The storm originating in the Tennessee Valley is expected to swing across Virginia and the Carolinas before intensifying over the Atlantic south of Chesapeake Bay, according to forecaster Hugh Johnson at the National Weather Service in Albany, N.Y. Trends based on computer model favor a farther south track than originally expected, he stated, lowering the probability of any significant impact to western New England.
But, Johnson cautioned, "we're not backing off completely, it's not out of the question that it could still impact us." He said there's still a "low chance" of a plowable snowfall, up to 4 inches, in Berkshire County.
A strong, dry cold-air system anchored over southern Quebec and northern New England may help deflect the storm from the Berkshires and southern Vermont, he added.
However, anyone traveling to the New York City area and points south to the nation's capital could encounter heavy snow and wind, said AccuWeather meteorologist Alex Sosnowski.
"The storm will bring significant snow to more than 50 million people and could bring travel to a standstill in part of the mid-Atlantic states," he stated on Wednesday.
"As the storm strengthens, winds will increase as snowfall rates ramp up," he noted. "An all-out blizzard will unfold in some areas. Whiteout conditions will occur in several states. The storm is likely to shut down some highways and could cause some airports to close."
Metro areas from Philadelphia and New York City to Hartford, Providence, and Boston will be in the zone where enough snow may fall to shovel and plow, according to AccuWeather. Localized snowfall in this zone could approach a foot. Heavy snow and high winds could cause power blackouts near the coast.
But major uncertainties on the final track and strength of the storm continue to confound forecasters. As of midday Wednesday, government forecasters in Boston were backing off predictions of a heavy snowfall for eastern Massachusetts. However, the New York City area could see 6 to 8 inches of snow, the National Weather Service predicted.