A potent late-winter storm threatened to disrupt normal routines today, with a potentially hazardous combination of heavy snow, sleet and freezing rain.
The National Weather Service in Albany issued a winter storm warning for the Berkshires as of 6 p.m. Monday and it was set to expire at 8 tonight. As much as 9 inches of snow could be on the ground by sunset.
If the forecast pans out -- and private services such as AccuWeather and the Weather Channel issued similar predictions -- school districts faced a tough decision on whether to declare another snow day today, adding to the total approaching five in some towns. Travel on land and by air was expected to be hazardous until the storm winds down Tuesday night.
The city of Pittsfield declared a snow emergency with the usual parking restrictions, slated to remain in effect until 7 a.m. on Wednesday.
Adding to the mess: strong southeasterly winds gusting to 30 miles an hour, and temperatures ranging into the mid-30s today after pre-dawn lows below freezing.
The stormy forecast resulted from a system organizing off the Atlantic coast east of New Jersey on Monday night and heading northeast toward Cape Cod, which is expected to interact with another system emerging from the Midwest, according to the government’s national prediction center in College Park, Md. Complicating the outlook, however, was the possibility of some milder air filtering into the storm, causing the snow to change to a mix, especially at lower elevations.
As astronomical spring arrives at 7:02 a.m. Wednesday with the vernal equinox, below-normal temperatures and the possibility of more snow showers persists for the rest of the work week. By the weekend, highs may reach into the 40s.
At AccuWeather, senior meteorologist Kristina Pydynowski predicted a "disruptive snowstorm, interrupting daily routines." The private forecasting company foresees 5 to 12 inches of snow in the Berkshires.
"There is potential for the rate of the snow to be intense and the accumulation heavy and wet," said AccuWeather.com Meteorologist Alex Sosnowski. "Enough wet, clinging snow can fall to down tree limbs and power lines in some areas."
He listed Pittsfield in the target area, along with Albany, N. Y. and several New Hampshire cities.
Travelers to Boston on Tuesday could encounter 3 to 5 inches of snow and sleet, with more in the Worcester area. Much of Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine could be buried by a foot or more of snow by Wednesday morning.