Via nor'easter, region might be inching closer to coating of snow

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There might be an inch or two of snow on the pumpkin this weekend, especially in the region's higher elevations, as a fast-moving nor'easter rides up the Eastern Seaboard, bringing primarily heavy rain and strong winds to Western Massachusetts and Southern Vermont.

No need for shovels or plows this early in the season, according to government and private forecasters. But the higher elevations in the region might get a coating of snow Saturday morning before milder temperatures and rain wash it away.

Some of those higher elevations already have seen snow: Visitors to the summit of Mount Greylock — at 3,491 feet, it's the state's highest peak — were treated to a dusting of snow Thursday morning.

Computer models on the weekend storm's track were out of sync as of Thursday evening, said meteorologist Neil Stuart at the National Weather Service in Albany, N.Y. The region will be caught between colder and milder air, he said. The forecast challenge: Where exactly will that dividing line be?

"Fast-forward motion of the storm may limit the worst weather conditions from Friday night to Saturday night," according to AccuWeather senior meteorologist Dave Dombek.

The storm set to form off the Carolinas on Friday night, armed with moisture from the remnants of former Hurricane Willa, is likely to affect outdoor Halloween events Saturday, according to the Weather Channel. A nor'easter is a strong area of low pressure along the East Coast that typically features winds from the northeast off the Atlantic Ocean.

With accumulating snow likely to our north, Mount Snow in Dover, Vt., plans to open for skiing Saturday, the earliest start of the season in its 64 years.

In the Berkshires, 1 to 2 inches of rain are expected after a switchover from snow around midday Saturday, with gradual clearing Sunday.

Wind gusts to 40 mph are expected, said National Weather Service forecaster John Villani. Temperatures will be well below normal for late October, with highs only from the upper 30s to mid-40s, he said in an online post.

Meanwhile, the lack of fall color and much-delayed leaf drop from many trees can be blamed on late-summer and early-fall heat and persistent heavy rain.

"It seems like it has disrupted the normal coloration process," according to Marc Abrams, professor of forest ecology at Penn State University. "Even though the temperatures are now conducive to fall colors, a lot of the trees are just not producing it."

The warm and wet weather extended the growing season and kept the leaves green, he said. As a result, the normal breakdown of the green pigment called chlorophyll is not happening this year. Also, the abundant rainfall caused leaf fungus in many trees, which also resulted in diminished colors.

Now, when frost hits the green leaves, they usually go straight from green to brown.

Information from Accuweather.com and Weather.com was included in this report.

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

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