Flooding closes underpass in Pittsfield; morning commute Friday could be dicey
The combination of the temperature warming to the low 50s and rainfall moving through Berkshire County led to roads flooding in some areas.
"It looks like the rain is going to continue through at least this morning and maybe early afternoon," National Weather Service meteorologist Joe Cebulko said Thursday. "We also have the warm temperatures helping to melt the snow."
In Pittsfield, Hubbard Avenue was temporarily closed near the railroad overpass while highway workers tried to clear flooding in the area. Isolated flooding also was noted in typical pockets of the city, like West and Elm streets.
Pittsfield Public Schools custodial staff and city maintenance employees responded to leaks at Allendale, Egremont, Stearns and Crosby elementary schools, as well as Pittsfield High School, and Herberg and Reid middle schools.
"The quick snowmelt, along with hours of rain, was just more than some roof drains could deal with. We are concerned about all of this freezing overnight and beginning again [today]," Superintendent Jason McCandless said in an email. "As always — the City Maintenance Department was indeed all over to help, and our own custodial staff were doing everything they could to keep floors dried so people could be safe."
In Adams, the Department of Public Works has requested that vehicles not pass its working crews on the road, as they work "day and night" to address snow, ice and flooding issues in town.
At the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts in North Adams, facilities crews and local contractors responded to a water main break Thursday afternoon, according to a college spokesman.
"At this time the impact is minimal," Bernadette Alden said. "It is contained and will be monitored throughout the night until repairs can be made [this] morning."
The National Weather Service issued a flash flood watch for Berkshire County, as well as parts of New York and Vermont, until 6 p.m. Thursday.
The heavy rain was prompted by a cold front making its way to the region, according to Cebulko. When the back end of that front arrives Thursday night, temperatures are expected to drop to the upper teens and low 20s.
The quick change in temperature could lead to the water flowing through the streets to freeze overnight.
Pittsfield Deputy Fire Chief Matthew Noyes said that the department had responded to several instances of city residents slipping on ice Thursday morning.
"We haven't gotten any [car] accidents today," he said. "When [the temperature] drops tonight, I'll guarantee we'll have some."
Every winter, fire departments are called to homes with flooded basements or burst pipes caused by the extreme cold, Noyes said.
By 4 p.m. Thursday, firefighters had responded to four flooded basements and four homes with leaking ceilings. On Dalton Avenue, firefighters provided sandbags to a resident whose backyard was overrun with "huge amounts of water," Noyes said.
The state Department of Fire Services is urging residents to be safe about thawing frozen pipes and avoiding using blowtorches in an attempt to do so quickly. On Tuesday, a man in Gardner used a plumber's torch to thaw his pipes and ended up setting his house on fire, according to the office.
"This bitter cold weather brings the risk of frozen pipe," said State Fire Marshal Peter J. Ostroskey. "As difficult as that situation is, it is important not to make a bad situation worse; many people cause fires trying to thaw frozen pipes."
Thursday's high temperature of 54 at Pittsfield Municipal Airport came close to the record of 56, which was set in 1999. A total of 1.91 inches had fallen as of 4 p.m. Thursday, which set a record for the date.
The next few days are likely to be drier, with highs in the low 20s, Cebulko said.
"For the most part, it should be dry. You can see an isolated flurry in the afternoon, but that's about it," he said of Friday. "Looks like were going to be kind of quiet at least for a day or so. Over the next few days or so, there are a few chances for really light snow; no appreciable snow in the forecast right now."
Haven Orecchio-Egresitz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, @HavenEagle on Twitter and 413-770-6977.
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