Dry, cool autumn weather settles in

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"When fall comes, kicking summer out on its treacherous ass as it always does one day sometime after the midpoint of September, it stays awhile like an old friend that you have missed." - Stephen King ("Salem's Lot," 1975)

As devastating wildfires show no signs of abating in California and the Pacific Northwest, and a tropical storm named Sally, morphing into a hurricane, threatens Louisiana, the Northeast remains an oasis of dry, pleasantly seasonable mid-September weather.

The downside, of course, is the U.S. Drought Monitor's persistent abnormally dry category for most of the Berkshires, with a moderate drought in the hill towns south and east of Pittsfield. Average total precipitation for the year so far at Pittsfield Municipal Airport is 31.5 inches based on 82 years of records, but we've only had 23.7 inches, a 25 percent shortfall.

This week promises more of the same, as the typical mid-September cool-down continues. We may even see lows in the upper 30s before dawn on Tuesday. A good time to give your heating system a dry run.

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Any rain for western New England this week? All depends on the track of Tropical Storm Sally's remnants, which could offer some beneficial moisture to our area Thursday night into Friday. But it's only a 30 percent chance, as of Sunday's forecast.

Otherwise, it's sunny days and clear nights this week, with a gradual warm-up into the mid-70s on Wednesday and Thursday. Next weekend may be unusually cool as we head toward the fall equinox on Sept. 22.

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The average temperature range drops to 47 - 68 this Friday, while shorter days - sunrise at 6:38 and sunset at 6:54 - herald the start of the fall foliage season.

A succession of warm, sunny days and cool, crisp but not freezing nights seems to bring about the most spectacular color displays, according to the U.S. Forest Service's website. No two autumns can be exactly alike, but lack of soil moisture can delay the arrival of fall color by a week or two.

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Back to Sally: She's likely to become a hurricane fed by the Gulf of Mexico's warm waters. On Tuesday, the central Gulf Coast, especially Louisiana, confronts a life-threatening storm surge, battering surf, inland flooding and hurricane force winds.

Hurricane Paulette is targeting Bermuda for a direct hit Monday. Other potential storms are lining up in the eastern Atlantic during the record season that has two more months to go.

Anticipated rainfall may help firefighters in Oregon, Washington and northern California by midweek. But the rest of California is expected to remain dry and windy, further stoking the wildfires and prolonging some of the world's worst air pollution.

The Outlook is today's look ahead at the week's weather, its impact on the Berkshires and beyond. Clarence Fanto can be reached at cfanto@yahoo.com.


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