The first round of the biggest snowstorm this winter packed less punch than some predicted, leaving officials knocking on wood that the lack of major accidents Wednesday would continue into the storm's second act expected to start early this morning.
The initial leg of the two-part storm brought only minor vehicle accidents to some Berkshire County towns Wednesday, police reported, while others saw none at all. No significant injuries resulted from numerous vehicle mishaps as cars slid off roads, into trees, into utility poles and even onto the shoulder of I-90.
The double-barreled weather event, which began around noon Wednesday, is forecast to last 30 to 36 hours, with the initial phase ending Wednesday evening and a second bout beginning again around midnight, according to Joe Villani, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Albany, N.Y.
"This is certainly the most intense and high-impact storm we've seen this winter -- since we've barely had any snow at all, really," Villani said. "There's a little bit of a lull this evening as the first part winds down. But then we're going to expect precipitation to intensify and expand at night as another low pressure system area develops to the south."
In the Berkshires, overnight precipitation was forecast to be a mix of snow and sleet, but by this morning, flakes were expected to return in full with temperatures in the lower to mid-30s, Villani said.
On I-90 in Becket, a tractor-trailer spun out of the eastbound lane and onto the shoulder at around 1:30 p.m., spilling some diesel and briefly closing the right lane. Westfield State Police said that one of the two occupants of the truck requested to be looked at by a medical professional, but any injuries were believed to be minor.
Elsewhere in Becket, three minor afternoon accidents included a truck ramming into a utility pole by the Green Water Pond on Route 20.
"It's always the first snowstorm of the season they have problems with," said Becket Police Chief William Elovirta, "and of course we haven't had any snow to speak of all winter, so this is kind of like the first snowstorm again."
In Pittsfield, where police reported only one minor accident in a parking lot, officials declared a snow emergency, a ban on street parking that lasts from 6 p.m. Wednesday through 7 a.m. Friday.
"All the city crews are out and they're pretreating the roads and plowing," said Bruce I. Collingwood on Wednesday afternoon. "Everything is out that can be out, and we have mechanics on staff. We'll be staffing around the clock ‘til the weather event ends."
Especially with expectations of ice on the roads today, Collingwood predicted that the unusually long storm would rack up a higher bill than usual, perhaps as much as $40,000 taking into account overtime and sanding materials. Prior to the current storm, Pittsfield had spent $500,000 of its $650,000 snow budget for the year, he said.