Can you dig it? Berkshires residents wade into the deep after nor'easter socks it to them

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The Berkshire Eagle

The order of the day? Digging out and cleaning up.

Light flurries and a deep blanket of snow greeted residents and city workers across the county Thursday morning as they set about shoveling, plowing and clearing off snowpacked cars.

"They're looking a lot better," Al Zerbato, interim Lee Department of Public Works superintendent, said of road conditions midmorning Thursday. "We're starting to see a lot more pavement, and that's the goal."

Wednesday's nor'easter — it was the second serious storm in less than a week — slammed North Berkshire with close to 3 feet of snow while leaving other towns with about a foot or two.

That disparity in snowfall was caused by band precipitation, common in nor'easters.

Bands of heavy snow can settle in one area while missing or barely impacting others, said John Quinlan, an Albany-based meteorologist with the National Weather Service.

Heavy snow or not, things were looking up for some Thursday.

Area police departments reported no major weather-related accidents as of about 10 a.m. Thursday.

Trash pickup also is getting back on schedule.

Trash pickup in Pittsfield will resume Friday, covering all Wednesday collections and some Thursday locations.

On Saturday, Republic, the city's trash pickup service, will complete the remaining Thursday collections and all of Friday's service.

"Things are looking good today," Daniel Ostrander said, pointing to the clear road pavement visible from the window of his office on West Housatonic Street.

Private contractors for the city had started plowing at about 4 p.m. Wednesday, finishing at about 9:30 Thursday morning.

But city plow drivers hadn't officially been sent home yet.

They'll leave when the work is done, said Ostrander, highway superintendent for the city of Pittsfield.

He has a staff of 10, with about 30 hired small-plow trucks and several larger trucks.

By about noon Thursday, 16 hours of work were winding down for 21-year-old Jonah Kelly, who plows as a contractor for the city.

He had just finished plowing about half an hour earlier, he said, as he hosed down the large truck he had used to keep roadways like Onota Street clear.

"It was definitely really slippery," he said.

This storm was slipperier than even the ice storms this season, he said.

After hosing down the truck, Kelly planned to go home and sleep.

"A good 12 hours, hopefully," he said.

The Department of Public Services relies on other city departments in addition to private contractors for plowing — there just isn't enough staff for the job, Ostrander said.

And it got messy this time around.

Vinny Barbarotta encountered whiteout conditions in the wee hours of Thursday morning as he plowed in the vicinity of East New Lenox and Holmes roads.

"I would say that was the 3 inches per hour they were predicting," said Barbarotta, working foreman for the city.

In Lee, public works staff had to help handle a waterline equipment problem at about 3 p.m. Wednesday, as heavy snow was falling in many parts of the county.

So, supervisors jumped in to help plow.

"Everybody did a little extra to get through this storm," Zerbato said. "I must say, right off the bat, that the guys have done a fantastic job."

As of about 10 a.m. Thursday, Zerbato's staff had been plowing for about 30 hours nonstop.

But things were winding down, with plow drivers cleaning up intersections and snowbanks.

Zerbato said he hoped his guys would be able to go home around noon.

All in all, it was pretty good for a March storm, Ostrander said.

"It's not January ... so we're on the good side of it," he said. "Hope for an early spring."

The National Weather Service is predicting a calm weekend, with no measurable precipitation to speak of Saturday or Sunday and highs in the mid- to upper-30s both days, Quinlan said.

There's potential for a storm Monday, but Monday's weather is "highly uncertain," Quinlan said early Thursday afternoon.

Otherwise, Monday's forecast calls for a chance of precipitation, again with highs in the mid- to upper-30s both days.

Patricia LeBoeuf can be reached at, at @BE_pleboeuf on Twitter and 413-496-6247.


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