A prolonged onslaught of heavy snow is expected to wallop the Berkshires beginning Thursday afternoon, creating dangerous travel conditions, according to government and private forecasters.
A winter storm warning is in effect from 7 a.m. Thursday through 10 a.m. Friday, with a total of 10 to 20 inches of snow possible, according to Kevin Lipton, a forecaster with the National Weather Service in Albany, N.Y. The highest amounts in the hilltowns of the eastern Berkshires.
Nearly as much is expected throughout western New England and eastern New York, including Albany and the rest of the Capital District.
"It's a very big deal, very high impact," Lipton said. Confidence in the forecast is high, he added, with the storm developing "well on track" after packing an icy punch in portions of Georgia and the Carolinas.
"Travel will be dangerous, very difficult at best," he said, from Thursday afternoon well into Friday morning. The first flakes should be flying by mid-morning in southern and central portions of Berkshire County, reaching North County by noon.
School officials began taking heed in the forecasts on Wednesday night; Pittsfield schools will dismiss students at the half-day point today, according to Superintendent Jason "Jake" McCandless. Elementaries will close at 11:35 a.m.; middle schools at 10:50 a.m.; and high schools at 10:40 a.m., he said.
The storm is a classic Nor'easter, Lipton explained, meaning it tracks along the Atlantic coast from its origins in the Gulf of Mexico to just east of Cape Cod, packing strong northeast winds.
Those winds could gust as high as 20 to 30 miles an hour in the Berkshires, said Lipton. Only extreme South Berkshire might see a brief mix with sleet late Thursday afternoon, with all snow elsewhere.
The snow will be heavy and wet, making it less prone to drifting but more challenging to plow or shovel, Lipton noted. During the height of the storm Thursday night, snow could be falling at a rate of one to two inches an hour, or even more in some locations.
AccuWeather.com is predicting a range of 10 to 18 inches for Berkshire County, with possible downed tree limbs and power lines.
In Boston, a rain and snow mix was on tap for Thursday, with 4 to 6 inches of accumulation in the city, but higher amounts and some ice west of I-95. Conditions on the MassPike between the Berkshires and Boston are expected to be especially treacherous on Thursday.
New York City is also expecting a mix, but with 6 to 8 inches of snow before a possible changeover to sleet, freezing rain or rain.
Airports in the New York area, at Boston's Logan and in Hartford and Albany are posting widespread cancellations for Thursday and Friday flights.
To contact Clarence Fanto:
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