Winter refuses to let go

Tuesday, March 03
PITTSFIELD — The latest winter storm to hit the Berkshires led to another snow day for most schools and created hazardous driving conditions — and also postponed a visit by former Vermont Gov. Madeleine Kunin, who was scheduled to speak at an event in Pittsfield.

The classic Nor'easter, as described by the National Weather Service in Albany, dumped the heaviest amounts of precipitation on the southeastern part of the county, with Otis and Becket receiving nearly a foot of snow.

While the rest of the Berkshires received in the range of 3 to 6 inches — Pittsfield 3.3 and Great Barrington 3.4 — it was the storm's timing that led public school officials, along with Berkshire Community College and Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts, to cancel some classes.

The snow began falling before daybreak and lasted through most of the Monday morning commute. After a lull in the storm, additional snow began falling during the afternoon and tapered off in the early evening hours.

Local and state police reported a few minor accidents throughout the day, while municipal and state road crews were out plowing, salting and sanding the roads.

The wintry travel conditions prevented the former Vermont governor — and 1952 Pittsfield High School alumnus, from leaving her home in Burlington, Vt., to make a speech on Monday night at Congregation Knesset Israel to celebrate International Women's Day. Kunin also planned to be the guest at a reception prior to her talk and meet today with history students at Pittsfield High.

But those events were called off too, according Anne Pasko, spokeswoman for the Pittsfield political action group WHEN, which had arranged Kunin's visit.

"The event got canceled early enough so we could make phone calls and get the announcement on the radio," said Pasko.

She said WHEN is "very disappointed" Kunin's visit was canceled as the Monday evening activities doubled as a fundraiser for the group.

"Better to cancel cleanly," Pasko added. "We would have felt worse if the event was still held and only a few people showed up because of the weather."

Pasko noted that WHEN may try to reschedule Kunin's visit to Pittsfield in the fall.

Meanwhile, Pittsfield could use some more funds to fight Old Man Winter. Commissioner of Public Works and Utilities, Bruce I. Collingwood, said the cost of cleaning up from Monday's storm will be piled onto the $733,000 his department has already spent this winter — which is $200,000 more than was budgeted.

State law allows cities and towns to deficit spend for snow and ice removal, but they must eventually find the money to cover the shortfall.

While Pittsfield has spent far less than the $1.1 million spent last year, Collingwood noted the winter of 2009 is far from over, even if spring is officially on March 20.

"You can get some serious storms in March," he said.

To reach Dick Lindsay:, or (413) 496-6233.


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