Heavy winds to sweep in a mild new year for Berkshires


The new year is coming in with a roar as gale-force winds are expected to rake the Berkshires on Tuesday, especially from Pittsfield north and into southern Vermont.

A high-wind watch issued by the National Weather Service in Albany, N.Y., remains in effect through 4 p.m. Tuesday. Westerly winds at 20 to 30 mph with gusts up to 60 mph could knock down a few trees and large limbs, leading to possible power blackouts in some areas.

The alert stems from an intensifying storm over Maine combined with an approaching cold, high-pressure air mass over southern Quebec, forecaster Brian Frugis said.

The high wind outlook followed a regional winter weather advisory for possible snow, sleet and ice issued by the government forecasters that was set to expire before dawn on Tuesday. However, the updated forecast for Berkshire County indicated little or no ice or sleet buildup overnight, with rain and rising temperatures predicted.

Once again, a familiar pattern persists, with rainfall and temperatures approaching 50 on Tuesday sure to melt any potential frozen remnants on trees, ground and roadways. Another storm system on Friday will follow the "rinse and repeat" cycle, with heavy rain but no accumulating snow in the outlook through this weekend.

At Pittsfield Municipal Airport, only 2.5 inches of snow fell in December, compared to a long-term average of 16 inches for the month.

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Temperatures for December averaged 3 degrees above normal, with relatively mild readings each day since Dec. 19. Since the first of the month, the thermometer has registered above average on 20 days. For the full year, temperatures were higher than normal every month except April and November.

The trophy for the second-wettest year of the century goes to 2018, with 54 inches, a close second to 2011, the record-holder with just over 55 inches, including 16 inches in August and September dumped by Tropical storms Irene and Lee.

Snowfall totals for December have varied wildly in recent years — paltry amounts of 0.6 inches in 2006, 2.1 inches in 2011 and 1 inch in 2015. But 32.5 inches fell in December 2007, a record for the month, according to local airport data from AccuWeather.com.

Any overall trend points to January and February as the most consistently reliable months for significant snowfalls in the region. The one-month record-holder remains January 2011, with a crushing 52 inches, while March 2018 holds second-place "honors" with 42 inches.

March has occasionally surged in the heavy-snow sweepstakes this century, with 36 inches in 2001 and 30 inches in 2005, but typically the month has only limited single-digit or near-zero totals.

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


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