The chilly blast that sent temperatures tumbling on Saturday was a reminder that the near-record warmth the Berkshires enjoyed last week was the last bounty of early fall.
Thursday’s high of 76, followed by Friday’s 71, were both 20 degrees above normal. But the cold front that pushed through ushered in a much more typical final week of October, since the average range is now 34 to 54, and we’ll be a bit below that in the days ahead.
With what’s left of fall foliage blowing away hour by hour (falling leaves sound much like light rain, don’t they?), the week leading up to a subdued Halloween this Saturday will feel more like mid-November.
There’s even a slight chance of overnight snow showers later this week, though the National Weather Service team in Albany acknowledged on Sunday that it’s a “low-confidence forecast” five days in advance.
Semi-heated, semi-enclosed outdoor dining will be put to the test this week, with Monday marked by very light, occasional showers. “Cool and damp conditions with clouds and rain will make for a rather dreary day,” government forecaster Joe Villani acknowledged, with highs expected to hold below 50.
More of the same is likely for Tuesday, though with rain chances vanishing and a few breaks of sun possible.
The rest of the week offers a complex outlook with high uncertainty as there’s a chance of leftover moisture from the remains of Tropical Storm Zeta, churning in the Gulf of Mexico Sunday afternoon, teaming up with a storm out of the Southwest.
A successful hookup of these two systems just might yield the season’s first flakes late Wednesday night, transitioning into a good shot of beneficial rain Thursday into Friday.
The Halloween forecast on Saturday is for cool and dry, but trick-or-treating is strongly discouraged, with various socially-distant activities planned instead.
With most of the county remaining in the National Drought Monitor’s “abnormally dry” category, little relief from the precipitation shortfall is expected.
Currently, the Berkshires region has seen a bit less than half of the normal rainfall for October. For the first 10 months of the year, minus one week, we’re at roughly 75 percent of normal rain and snowmelt.
Nationally, the two Colorado wildfires named East Troublesome and Cameron Peak have charred more than 400,000 acres, but firefighters should catch a break from a major snowstorm. On Monday, that storm could drop close to a foot in metro Denver and Rocky Mountain National Park, followed by record cold temperatures over the Rockies and the Plains.
The early-season Arctic blast should send temperatures below zero Monday morning in the northern and central Rockies, with strong winds and potential blizzard conditions in some areas.
But critical to extreme fire risks caused by Santa Ana winds persist over portions of central California above Monterey Bay into the Sacramento area and points north, especially on Monday.
Winds are forecast to be strong enough to force local utility companies to shut off power for many residents due to the risk of fires caused by downed lines.
Scientists blame global warming for the historic wildfire season in California, since many of the blazes were started or worsened by dry lightning strikes fueled by extreme heat, fierce winds and persistent drought.
A lightning fire that might not have spread so quickly decades ago now leaps across the landscape of dry vegetation.
Recent research suggests that combinations of extreme heat and drought that could make forests more fire-prone are more frequent — not just in the West, but also in the Northeast and Southeast.
As Craig Allen, a research ecologist with the U.S. Geological Survey, told The New York Times, wildfires could be “coming soon to a landscape near you. Wherever you are.”