Howling winds from the northwest propelled a polar express blast of frigid arctic air into the Berkshires overnight. Temperatures were on a free fall Friday, heading toward zero by early afternoon. Subzero readings are likely before sunset.
Before dawn on Saturday, lows countywide are expected to range from minus 10 to minus 15, with fierce northwest winds gusting as high as 40 to 45 mph, according to the National Weather Service.
Between 4 and 9 a.m. Friday, the temperature at Pittsfield Municipal Airport skidded from 21 to 6 degrees, with top winds gusting to 38 mph at times.
The dangerous wind chills, as low as minus 20, prompted a last-minute decision to close down the Pittsfield school system for a "deep freeze day."
Government forecasters urged people to remain indoors if possible, since unprotected exposure to the elements could cause frostbite within 10 minutes. If winds remain strong, power disruptions also are possible, the wind chill warning pointed out.
On Saturday, with the warning expiring by midmorning, winds should slack off. And on Sunday, temperatures will start recovering into the 30s under sunny skies. Next week, highs in the 40s are predicted, with rain showers possible Tuesday night.