Berkshires could see up to 10 inches of snow

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A storm forecast to hit the Berkshires on Tuesday could bring sleet and up to 10 inches of snow. 

The conditions are expected to make road travel treacherous, and some schools were already announcing early releases for Tuesday.

Pittsfield Public Schools on Monday night declared a half-day for all schools in the district Tuesday, according to a statement from Superintendent Jason "Jake" McCandless.

"Students will start school at their regular time but will be released as they are on regular half days. All after-school and evening activities are canceled or postponed for tomorrow. We apologize for the inconvenience of this," said McCandless in the statement emailed to families and staff Monday evening.

Lenox Public Schools Superintendent Kim Merrick also sent out an emailed statement Monday night declaring that Tuesday will be a half-day for both Morris Elementary School and Lenox Memorial Middle and High School. It's part of a familiar pattern this winter — wide swings in temperatures, occasional high winds, icy streets and sidewalks, as well as snowfalls that often fall short of predictions followed within several days by drenching rainfalls and plenty of bare ground.

The complex, double-barreled storm system making a beeline for the Berkshires and the rest of the Northeast slammed Seattle with rare plowable snow over the weekend. 

In its winter storm warning, in effect from 10 a.m. Tuesday until noon Wednesday, the National Weather Service called for a heavy mix of snow and sleet with 6 to 10 inches expected, along with up to a quarter inch of ice and winds gusting to 45 mph most of Tuesday night.

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"Travel will be very difficult to dangerous, and very hazardous or impossible, for the Tuesday evening commute," the government forecasters based in Albany, N.Y., cautioned. "Snow will come down heavy at times in the afternoon, 1 to 2 inches per hour, mixing with sleet late in the day."

"This forecast is very tough," meteorologist Ingrid Amberger said, in terms of how far north a warmer "nose" of air aloft makes it, although ground-level temperatures will remain at or below freezing. The milder air could cut snow totals in the Berkshires, depending on when it arrives. 

However, there's an equal chance that a mostly-snow situation could boost the accumulation. The amount of ice clinging to roadways, sidewalks and tree limbs is also a major concern. 

AccuWeather.com is predicting around 5 inches of combined snow and sleet for Berkshire County, but cautions that ice-storm conditions on Tuesday night, with up to a half-inch of ice coating the ground, may lead to scattered power blackouts.

Other forecasts: CBS 6 in Albany sees 4 to 7 inches in the Berkshires, up to 10 in hilly sections of North County, while NewsChannel 13 expects 3-6 inches south of the MassPike, and 6 to 9 inches to the north, including Pittsfield, North Adams, Adams and Williamstown.

After some drying-out on Thursday and most of Friday, a weekend rainstorm could cause rapid snowmelt and possible minor flooding.

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


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