Not a moment too soon for the rain-starved Berkshires, Tropical Storm Fay has formed off the North Carolina coast, on a track that should drench the region with showers and thunderstorms from Friday afternoon well into Saturday.

Anticipating a major rainmaker, the National Weather Service in Albany, N.Y., posted a flash flood watch for the Berkshires and surrounding areas for rainfall rates of up to 1 inch per hour. The result could be flooding of poor-drainage and low-lying areas. Flash flooding will be possible in urban areas of Pittsfield and North Adams as well.

The formation of Fay on Thursday afternoon makes it the sixth named storm in the busy Atlantic Ocean hurricane season.

"Fay will be a mostly heavy rain producer but could still bring wind gusts of 50 to 60 miles per hour along coastal areas of eastern Long Island and over eastern coastal areas of New England," AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist and Lead Hurricane Expert Dan Kottlowski stated.

Winds in Berkshire County should be much weaker, but total rainfall could top 2 inches by the time the storm’s effects taper off Saturday afternoon.

The system is forecast to drift on a general north to northeast track through this weekend. This path will take it right along the mid-Atlantic coast, and inland over New England and Atlantic Canada, according to AccuWeather.

"Exactly how close to the coast this system tracks as it moves northward will generally dictate how much strengthening takes place," AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Randy Adkins predicted.

"A path 100 miles off the mid-Atlantic coast increases the likelihood of strengthening to a moderate tropical storm, as the system would be over warm water for a longer period of time as opposed to hugging the coast or just onshore of the coast," he explained.

Strengthening to a hurricane is not anticipated at this time, no matter whether the system hugs the coast or parallels the coast just offshore.

Much of New England, which has been in a worsening drought situation, could be quenched by the tropical system, assuming that it tracks just inland.

According to the National Weather Service, a low-pressure coastal, or offshore, system becomes a genuine tropical storm if its top surface winds reach 39 to 73 miles per hour.

The Massachusetts coast, especially Cape Cod and the Islands, might be clobbered by winds gusting 35 to 50 miles per hour, depending on the storm track, along with torrential downpours.

Western Massachusetts remains in a moderate drought, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor’s weekly report issued Thursday. The drought classification has widened to include more of eastern New York, as well as southern and central Vermont and New Hampshire, northwest Connecticut and most of Maine.

The entire area, including Berkshire County, has seen only 78 percent of its average precipitation since the beginning of the year.

Clarence Fanto can be reached at, on Twitter @BE_cfanto or at 413-637-2551.