After another frigid day, a big plus: Minuses soon will be behind us

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 Minus 18.

That was the temperature at 4:45 a.m. Thursday in Egremont — the coldest spot in the Berkshires, according to the National Weather Service in Albany, N.Y.

Great Barrington wasn't far behind, at minus 15 shortly before daybreak, according weather spotter Nick Diller.

And the dangerously cold temperatures were exacerbated by a stiff breeze.

"Wind chill values remain dangerously cold this morning, with readings typically 10 to 20 below zero," the weather service said via Twitter. "Be sure to bundle up completely if you plan to be outdoors, as frostbite sets in quickly when wind chill values are this low!"

Districts across the Berkshires canceled school because of the dangerous conditions. And with temperatures expected to be nearly as cold for a second consecutive night, Pittsfield schools announced a two-hour delay for Friday.

Despite the deep freeze, Berkshire Medical Center has not seen a notable spike in admissions amid the cold, but officials said the hospital might see such an increase if the cold continued for much longer, said hospital spokesman Michael Leary. 

"We're not expecting an uptick, but are ready if it happens," he said, adding that what the hospital is seeing is the "traditional, seasonal January increase in influenza [diagnoses]."

Great Barrington Fire Chief Charles Burger said the department hadn't responded to any weather-related calls. 

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"But when it comes to freeze-ups," he added, "we'll run into problems this weekend because everything that froze doesn't usually get discovered until later ... we don't get called for when everything is frozen solid."

 Outlook for February 

January's roller-coaster temperature swings are expected to extend into February, as forecasters predict a significant warmup this weekend.Sunday's forecast high of 38,  with partly sunny skies, is expected to break the freeze; temperatures are expected to rise to 47 on Monday and 51 on Tuesday, according to AccuWeather.com.

The private forecaster's long-range outlook for the first half of February does not include any deep freezes like the two in January.

The warmup might feel nearly tropical after Thursday morning's bone-rattling lows, with air temperatures ranging from minus 18 in Egremont to minus 4 in Williamstown. Pittsfield registered a morning low of minus 10, with wind chills of minus 26; that's just short of the record low for the date — minus 14, set in 1948.

Harriman-and-West Airport in North Adams reported a low of minus 6, with a wind chill of minus 20.Windsor held the dubious title of wind-chill champion, bottoming out at minus 30. The mildest wind chill was minus 11 in Williamstown, according to the National Weather Service.

Because of January's wild temperature swings — deep freeze-ups alternating with near-record meltdowns —  the average temperature for the month at Pittsfield Municipal Airport was right at normal, according to AccuWeather.com and the National Weather Service.

The low for the month was minus 11, on Jan. 21, with Jan. 31 the close runner-up, at minus 10. But no low-temperature records were set for any date this January. The coldest January day was minus 26, in 1944. That's also the all-time low for the Pittsfield airport, based on records since 1938.

There was one weather record smashed this past month — the total of 2.23 inches of rainfall Jan. 24 at the Pittsfield airport marked an 80-year high.


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