Bitter blast hits Berkshires, but brief respite on the way


After suffering through a day and night of brutal cold and icy roads, Berkshire residents will enjoy a brief respite today and most of Sunday as temperatures rebound into the 20s and 30s.

But not before enduring predicted lows of around minus 15 early Saturday, threatening the record of minus 12 set in 1981 at Pittsfield Municipal Airport.

Despite frequent plowing, sanding and salting, motorists encountered icy roads because of the below-zero temperatures early Friday, though abundant afternoon sunshine eased the slick conditions during the afternoon.

All schools and colleges in the county were closed for a second straight day, except for Southern Berkshire Regional School District and several private schools still on the scheduled holiday break.

Even Williams College took the unusual step of telling its staff and faculty to stay home, since students weren't back on campus yet.

Berkshirites eager for a longer break from the harsh winter weather are in for a disappointment. Forecasters are keeping a wary eye on what may be an icy brew of freezing rain, sleet and snow that may envelop the area late Sunday.

"There is some potential for at least some light icing on Sunday night," said forecaster Kevin Lipton at the National Weather Service in Albany. "The best chance would be over the northern Berkshires."

While a changeover to rain is expected before the Monday morning work and school rush, a new blast of polar air may turn the rain back to snow during the early afternoon, Lipton explained.

"It's a complex weather scenario," he said. "There'll be another very bitter air mass Monday night to Wednesday, with wind chills even lower than they have been."

While actual temperatures won't plumb the depths as they did Friday into Saturday, the effects will be more harsh, he added, because of persistently strong winds.

Snowfall totals by Friday morning ranged from 5 inches in Lanesborough and Great Barrington, to 10 inches in Savoy, according to weather observers who reported in to the National Weather Service.

Eastern Massachusetts was in the bullseye of the coastal storm that dumped 10.6 inches of snow on Boston. The statewide jackpot for snow totals were in the Essex County towns of Boxford and Topsfield, each with nearly 24 inches.

MassPike speed limits remained at 40 miles per hour for much of Friday, and Logan Airport offered only limited service. Cape Cod suffered from winds as high as 65 miles an hour recorded in Hyannis.

State offices were closed all day, as were state courts and libraries.

During a mid-afternoon briefing from Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency headquarters in Framingham, Gov. Deval Patrick called the storm a "mixed blessing" because power disruptions were avoided by the fluffy, powdery nature of the snow caused by single-digit temperatures.

"The temperature is what makes the snow so light, but the temperature is so extreme that it's a hazard of a different kind," he commented during a conference call with reporters.

He noted that the state weathered the storm without any serious injuries or fatalities. Although Patrick had activated 400 members of the Massachusetts National Guard on Thursday, the troops were not called into service.

To contact Clarence Fanto:
or (413) 637-2551.
On Twitter: @BE_cfanto

Snowfall totals, in inches:

Savoy 10.0

Adams 7.8

Clarksburg 7.0

Becket 6.0

Lenox 6.0

Pittsfield 5.5

Alford 5.0

Great Barrington 5.0

Lanesborough 5.0

Sources: National Weather Service; WeatherNet6 observers.


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