PITTSFIELD -- The arctic cold siege continues to grip the Berkshires, the Northeast and much of the nation east of the Mississippi, but a glimpse of relief is in sight for early next week.
Under clear skies and brilliant sunshine, temperatures struggled to a mid-afternoon Thursday high of 11 at Pittsfield Municipal Airport and were settling back toward another below-zero pre-dawn low this morning.
On Thursday, the early-morning temperatures in Berkshire County ranged from 1 below to 14 below, with a minus 8 at the airport. A weather observer in Otis took the dubious honor of recording the deepest chill, at 14 below.
The National Weather Service in Albany, N.Y., predicted slightly less-frigid temperatures beginning tonight, along with a chance of an inch or two of snow in Southern Berkshire County.
A reinforcement of the polar express air mass is expected to produce more extreme deep-freeze conditions Saturday night and Sunday, according to meteorologist Warren Snyder. But starting Monday and continuing through most of next week, a mild spell will propel thermometers over the freezing mark during daytime, along with chances of rain and snow showers.But that doesn't mean the heart of the cold has been pierced.
The long-range National Weather Service outlook predicts a return to well below-normal readings in early February.
Spokes of the polar vortex, as meteorologists call the pool of cold air originating in far-northern Canada, is expected to fluctuate in its intensity and position, but will remain in the overall general area of the Northeast during the first week or two of next month, said Paul Pastelok, the chief long-range forecaster for AccuWeather.com.
Dawn deep freeze
Thursday morning's unofficial below-zero readings as compiled by the National Weather Service and local observers on Thursday include:
Great Barrington: -5
North Adams (airport): -6
Pittsfield (airport): -8
Pittsfield (rural): -12
Stamford (Vt.): -11
South Egremont: -9