The Berkshires are bracing for a 1-2 punch from Mother Nature as nearly a foot of snow followed by bone-chilling temperatures are expected to grip the region to start the new year.

As of Tuesday afternoon, the National Weather Service office in Albany N.Y. expects at least a 6-10 inch snowfall from later today into Friday. The final amount likely to vary depending on the track of the storm, according NWS meteorologist Brian Montgomery.

"On the heels of the storm will be a blast of arctic air, with the coldest temperatures of the winter Friday night into Saturday morning," he said. "The Berkshires could see lows of 10 to 15 below zero."

Prior to partaking in New Year's Eve celebrations, many local residents on Tuesday were stocking up on snow removal equipment in anticipation of the season's second major winter storm.

"We've seen an increase in business as we already sold two snowblowers [Tuesday] morning." said Bart Raser, owner of Pittsfield-based Carr Hardware.

"We have everything ready to go: snow shovels, ice melt, heaters and heat tape for the pipes during the cold," added Lee Hardware owner, Joseph Scapin Jr.

In addition to snow removal, Berkshirites need to prepare their homes, cars and pets for the frigid air following the storm.

Area homeowners wanting to avoid freezing pipes should run a trickle of water from the cold water tap of a kitchen or bathroom sink and make sure the furnace is operating properly.

To ensure one's motor vehicle starts in sub-zero weather, travel experts say have the battery tested, change the oil, if needed, and maintain a full tank of gas.

"A full tank will help prevent condensation and the fuel line from freezing up," said John Paul, spokesman for AAA of Southern New England.

Paul noted motorists using a gas line anti-freeze to absorb moisture should use one containing isopropyl alcohol.

As for pets, Amanda Rock of the Eleanor Sonsini Animal Shelter in Pittsfield urges they remain inside as much as possible during the cold snap.

"If they do go out, put booties or an ointment on their paws to keep them from freezing," Rock said. "And no dog or cat should stay outside."

To reach Dick Lindsay:,

or (413) 496-6233