More snow on the way

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The flakes will be flying again on Wednesday, along with sleet and ice pellets south of Pittsfield, as yet another storm takes aim at the winter-weary Berkshires.

The timing of the foul weather is likely to impact school schedules and business activities, since hazardous travel conditions are predicted from mid-morning Wednesday until dawn on Thursday, according to government and private forecasters.

As for the impact of the storm, that will depend on where you live in the county, according to the National Weather Service in Albany, N.Y.

For the northern Berkshires, from Pittsfield to Adams, North Adams, Williamstown and adjoining towns, the winter storm watch in effect from 7 a.m. Wednesday until 4 a.m. Thursday calls for 6 to 12 inches of snow, with the higher totals close to the Vermont border and in Bennington County, as well as eastern New York.

Difficult travel conditions are likely on Wednesday afternoon and evening, forecaster Brian Montgomery at the NWS predicted.

The southern Berkshires are expected to endure a long bout of heavy mixed precipitation, with combined snow and sleet totaling 4 to 8 inches along with a light glaze of ice and daytime highs around 30. The most hazardous travel conditions are also pinpointed for Wednesday afternoon and evening.

But Pittsfield, Dalton and North County will face the greatest plowing and shoveling because of lower temperatures in the mid-20s on Wednesday, dropping to the mid-teens overnight into Thursday.

The storm originating in the lower Mississippi Valley is expected to barrel into southwestern Pennsylvania before transferring its energy to the Atlantic south of Long Island, N.Y., and then heading up the New England coast after dark on Wednesday.

That type of scenario is especially tricky for forecasters, Montgomery acknowledged, since the exact storm track determines the line separating heavy snow from an icy mix.

Assuming confidence levels increase, the winter storm watches would be upgraded to warnings during the day on Tuesday, giving school superintendents and business leaders more accurate guidance and ample time before any decisions on closings or delays need to be finalized.

According to Montgomery, the snowfall that begins by mid- to late-morning on Wednesday would reach peak intensity during the afternoon, meaning the morning commute should be trouble-free. That leaves school leaders to ponder whether to close before any snow begins falling, take a chance on a full day of classes or choose early dismissals so districts still get credit for a complete day, according to state Department of Education policy.

Noting that the exact track of the storm remained uncertain as of Monday evening, Montgomery pointed out that sleet and ice could mix with the snow as far north as Great Barrington, Lee and Lenox as well as smaller adjacent towns. That would result in less total accumulation but equally hazardous road conditions.

Clarence Fanto can be reached at cfanto@yahoo.com or 413-637-2551.

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