PITTSFIELD -- The first winter storm of 2014 is expected to bring "a prolonged snow event" and up to 14 inches of snow to the Berkshires today and into Friday morning.

The National Weather Service Office in Albany has issued a winter storm watch for the entire region, with the potential for 8 to 14 inches of snow here from late Wednesday night through Friday morning.

The forecast also calls for frigid temperatures, peaking in the teens today and falling to zero or 5 below zero tonight. Windchills are estimated to range down to 15 below zero.

Meteorologist Ian Lee at the National Weather Service office in Albany, N.Y., said Wednesday night that the service is "pretty confident" now in its snowfall predictions while tracking two merging storms -- one from the Great Lakes region and another coming from the Mid-Atlantic region -- into New England.

"It will be a pretty prolonged snow event," Lee said. However, snow is expected to fall at a light rate over 24 to 36 hours, with "light to moderate" accumulations of a half to an inch per hour.

The impending storm forced Pittsfield Public Schools to cancel classes today. The storm's timing has other local school superintendents watching the forecasts carefully, as classes are scheduled to resume today for Berkshire school districts, following a nearly two-week break for the Christmas and New Year's holidays.

Delays and cancellations

Look for more school delays or cancellations on The Eagle website, www.berkshireeagle.com, and our Facebook page.