PITTSFIELD -- A bone-chilling cold snap sent pre-dawn temperatures below zero in many Berkshire locations early Thursday.
In North Adams, the overnight low set at 7 a.m. was minus 6 at Harriman & West Airport. North Adams tied with the town of Orange for the coldest in the state.
The early morning low at Pittsfield Municipal Airport, minus 2, was well below average for early January, but above the record of minus 10 set in 1981. The normal range for Jan. 3 is between 13 and 30 degrees. The all-time Pittsfield low was minus 26 set on Jan. 27, 1994, at the airport, where weather record-keeping began in 1938.
Government and private forecasters promise a return to seasonable conditions over the next seven days, with no storms in sight and only the potential for minor outbreaks of snow.
According to the National Weather Service in Albany, N.Y., the Berkshires may see a period of light snow Sunday morning and again Sunday night. The current foot-deep snowpack is expected to remain intact as daytime highs struggle to approach freezing today and over the weekend.
Easing the deep freeze for schoolchildren awaiting their bus pickups and early morning dog walkers was a nearly calm wind in most sections except North Adams, where the Tunnel City's valley geography produced a minus 19 wind chill as the sun rose.
The Thursday morning deep freeze served as a reminder that despite the less-severe winter temperatures typical of recent years, a handful of below-zero mornings remains par for the course in the Berkshires.
In its review of 2012 issued this week by the government forecast office in Albany, last year's average temperature at Pittsfield Municipal Airport clocked in at 48.8 degrees, a significant 3.5 degrees above normal. According to New England Newspaper files and records maintained by AccuWeather.com, it was the warmest year recorded in Pittsfield since measurements began 74 years ago.
Last year saw three 90-degree or above days in Pittsfield, with highs of 91 on June 20 and July 17, while the year's low at the airport was minus 8 on Jan. 16.
Precipitation totaling 36.35 inches (including melted snowfall) was far below the normal of 45.38 inches and a stark contrast to the monsoon-like year of 2011, with 59.46 inches, including the late-August deluge produced by Tropical Storm Irene.
Early morning lows
Thursday's pre-dawn low temperatures, all unofficial via the National Weather Service, included:
Great Barrington: -5
North Adams: -7