Travelers, beware! A wintry storm that began peppering the Berkshires with a cold rain Wednesday was expected to turn to freezing rain, sleet and eventually snow overnight, potentially causing icy road conditions.

Because temperatures took longer than expected to drop below freezing, the majority of Berkshire County was expected to see only 1 to 4 inches of heavy, wet snow on the ground by dawn this morning, according to the National Weather Service.

A winter weather advisory remains in effect for Berkshire County through 11 a.m. today. But areas to the north -- all of Vermont and much of upstate New York -- were under a winter storm warning with 10 to 20 inches of snowfall expected.

After Tuesday’s taste of spring, with a high of 49 at Pittsfield Municipal Airport, the return of winter with only eight days until the vernal equinox will come as an unwelcome reminder that March is a stormy month in the Berkshires, with a long-term snowfall total of 13 inches by April Fool’s Day.

The hazardous brew of rain, then ice and snow -- with a flash freeze caused by a sharp temperature drop from the 30s into the teens or lower overnight -- is the result of an intensifying winter storm that was over Pittsburgh at midday on Wednesday, tracking toward New York City, Long Island and, by noon today, heading out to sea off Cape Cod.

The greatest hazard was likely to be a flash freeze as temperatures drop Wednesday evening, causing roads and sidewalks to ice over as colder air rushes in, according to meteorologist Brian Frugis of the National Weather Service in Albany, N.Y. Northerly winds will pick up to 15 to 25 mph, with gusts up to 35 mph possible.

It will feel like mid-winter from Thursday through Sunday, with lows from zero to 10 before first light on Friday as strong winds continue. Forecasts through Tuesday call for well below normal temperatures, but the next major storm is expected to stay south of Western Massachusetts on Monday, based on current computer models.

To contact Clarence Fanto:
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