Anticipating torrential downpours from the combined impact of Tropical Storm Andrea and a rainmaker from the Great Lakes, the National Weather Service has posted a flood watch for the Berkshires and surrounding areas.
The prolonged rainfall, which began on Thursday evening, was expected to continue through Saturday morning, with a heavy burst of rain Friday night as Andrea passes offshore close to Long Island, N.Y., and Cape Cod.
The weekend won't be a total loss, however, as a partly sunny, seasonable break is expected on Sunday before another rainstorm approaches the region early next week.
The flood watch is in effect from 6 a.m. Friday until 8 p.m. Saturday.
Tropical Storm Andrea, which blew up in the Gulf of Mexico in Wednesday, is one of the earliest named storms on record. As of Thursday evening, it was crossing into Florida north of Tampa, with top winds of 65 miles per hour. It is expected to pick up speed for a quick run toward the Northeast on a track just east of I-95, according to computer models cited by the government forecasters in Albany, N.Y.
Since the National Hurricane Center in Miami projects the storm track as mostly inland until it moves offshore around Chesapeake Bay, Andrea is expected to lose its tropical-storm status on Saturday, though laden with Gulf and Atlantic moisture and still packing a potent punch.
The most impressive rainfall totals in the Northeast are expected from the Berkshires to the Massachusetts coastline. Easterly wind gusts could reach 25 to 35 miles per hour countywide, especially in higher terrain, the forecasters said. The combination of wet ground and fully-leafed trees could lead to scattered power blackouts, NWS meteorologist Hugh Johnson stated.
Although two to 4 inches of rain could soak the Berkshires by the time the storm winds down and moves out on Saturday afternoon, the forecasters are not expecting any major flooding, although the Housatonic River basin is being monitored for potential minor flooding. The main concern is focused on streams, brooks and flood-prone urban areas.
As the first named storm of the June 1-Oct. 31 hurricane system, Andrea formed about a month earlier than the usual earliest arrival, meteorologist Jeff Masters of Weather Underground stated.
So far this year, nearly 15 inches of rain and melted snow have been recorded at the National Weather Service observation station at Pittsfield Municipal Airport - about 3 inches below normal. The upcoming rain should wipe out that shortfall, filling reservoirs to the brimful and assuring ideal growing conditions for gardens and farms.