Another blast of Arctic air known as the polar vortex slammed into the Berkshires on Monday afternoon, triggering a sharp temperature drop and snow squalls that made roadways hazardous.
The bitterly cold air mass will keep the region in the deepest of freezes for the rest of the week, combined with strong winds that could result in dangerous wind chills, according to forecaster Brian Montgomery at the National Weather Service in Albany, N.Y.
And today, a coastal storm is tracking closer to the area than previously expected, Montgomery noted, citing computer guidance. Although the government forecaster was holding off on issuing a winter storm watch for the Berkshires, he stated that it would be a close call, especially for the southern portion of the county.
With Arctic air firmly entrenched over the area, the dry, fluffy snowfall could drop an average of 2 to 4 inches in central Berkshire, with higher amounts in southern portions of the county, he said.
But North Berkshire may see very little accumulation, depending on the final track of the storm.
"We're keeping a very keen eye on the storm," Montgomery told The Eagle, calling the forecast challenging. He urged residents to watch for government forecast updates at www.erh.noaa.gov/aly/ and via social media updates on Twitter and Facebook.
As Montgomery put it, "the coastal storm becomes a near meteorological bomb by Wednesday morning as it departs well to the east of the region." In its wake will be "a very cold day with dangerous low wind chills."
While the winds are likely to ease by Thursday, the long-range outlook calls for a continuing, intense cold snap, with small-scale storms from Canada bringing reinforcing shots of Arctic air to the region, along with snow showers from time to time.
For the rest of the week, daytime highs will struggle to reach 10 above in the Berkshires, while overnight lows approaching minus 5 are likely, with near-dangerous wind chills persisting. A slight improvement is predicted over the weekend.
While the coastal storm's impact is likely to be limited in the Berkshires, a moderate to potentially heavy snowfall is predicted for areas from Washington, D.C., to New York City and up the coast to Cape Cod and Boston, according to AccuWeather.com senior meteorologist Kristina Pydynowski.
Despite the intensity of two cold snaps last month and early this month, a series of near-record warmups have pushed the seven-week average temperature to 3 degrees above normal since Dec. 1, as recorded by the National Weather Service's automated observation equipment at Pittsfield Municipal Airport.
But heating costs have been running somewhat above average because of an unusually cold November that saw temperatures averaging more than 3 degrees below normal.
Snowfall for the season so far, at 24.4 inches, is well below the normal 35 inches from Nov. 1 to Jan. 20, based on 75 years of records at the airport.
To contact Clarence Fanto:
or (413) 637-2551.
On Twitter: @BE_cfanto
By the Numbers ...
Average temperature, Jan. (to date): 23.2 (2.9 degrees above normal)
Average temperature, Dec.: 27 (0.3 degrees above normal)
Snowfall, Dec: 16.6 inches (0.4 inches below average)
Snowfall, Jan. (to date): 7.4 inches (5 inches below average)
Snowfall, season: (Nov. 1-Jan. 20): 24.4 inches (11.1 inches below average)
Low temperature, season to date:
-- 9 (Jan. 4)
High temperature, season to date: 63 (Dec. 22)
Sources: National Weather Service; AccuWeather.com; Eagle files.