The Outlook: Hunkering down for the apocalypse, maybe

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If you're hunkering down waiting for the storm to end, or coming in from digging out, be of good cheer.

My silver lining playbook reveals that next weekend will be sunny though chilly — and that's great news for the many pre-Christmas celebrations and shopping extravaganzas planned in Pittsfield, Dalton, Lenox, Stockbridge, Williamstown and other communities.

The first full weekend of December is prime time for festivities, services and various observances to help bring on the holiday spirit. And it's a good time to celebrate the Brotherhood of Man/Woman/Child in whatever way fits your own traditions.

But first, here's the winter storm in progress as autumn phases out — for weather scientists, "meteorological winter" is December through February. Unless all the forecasters end up with omelette on their faces, it should the king of whoppers — snow, a dollop of sleet, a splish-splash of freezing rain and, of course, school, office and event cancellations, postponements and delays — check out The Eagle's updated list online and on social media.

On Sunday, with the well-hyped snowstorm a bit tardy for its scheduled arrival but well underway by mid-afternoon, folks were crowding the stores, laying in supplies for "The Apocalypse, Maybe."

Maybe, because our buddies at the National Weather Service in Albany — poring over their computer models and pumping out frequent web and social media updates — added this abundance-of-caution note to their Sunday analysis: "Should the storm track farther south and east than currently expected, amounts across the region, particularly near and north of I-90, would be much less."

The storm we're getting trekked from coast to coast, but expected to transfer its energy to a coastal low-pressure system developing off the New Jersey coast, then tracking off Cape Cod into the Gulf of Maine and a direct hit on Nova Scotia. It's a nor'easter-style snowstorm, and as such it's always tricky to pinpoint snow amounts, especially with sleet and freezing rain expected before sunup on Monday.

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It's also an unwelcome visitor settling in for a nearly 48-hour stay, so the official winter storm warning remains up until 7 a.m. Tuesday. The National Weather Service still expects 10 to 20 inches over western New England, though some hill towns in the Berkshires and the Greens of Southern Vermont could be plowing out from close to two feet of heavy, wet snow. (Greens, because Whites are already taken, those peaks are in New Hampshire).

AccuWeather.com forecasters are looking for 10 to 15 inches, and other commercial forecasters are following their lead.

The Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts in North Adams and Westfield State University were the first to call off classes for Monday. By the time you read this, it's hard to imagine Berkshire County schools taking a chance on staying open, even with an expected letup followed by another wallop Monday afternoon, evening and maybe through the night.

Greylock Snow Day, the brainchild of veteran Mount Greylock Regional High English teacher Blair Dils and the go-to website of choice for students, staff and superintendents, predicted a 100 percent chance of a delayed opening on Monday, and a 90 percent chance of no school.

With November a not-so-fond memory now, a quick look-back at the stats confirms it was ahead of its class for wintry temps, with 19 below normal days and two record lows on the 12th (15) and 13th (11) — a rude awakening following the 66-degree high on Nov. 1, but only 1.5 inches of snow, significantly less than typical for the month.

In Great Barrington, longtime weather observer Nick Diller reports that it was the coldest November of the current century, and the government's records at Pittsfield Municipal Airport tell the same story.

Looking ahead toward mid-December, the National Weather Service's Climate Prediction Center spies milder than normal temps, and above normal rain or snowfall. Subject to change, of course, as all long-range forecasts are. Flip your coin.

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


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