A blast of arctic air is expected to bring subzero temperatures and potentially life-threatening wind chills to the Berkshires, southern Vermont and beyond.
Low temperatures could plummet to the teens below zero early Sunday with daytime temperatures over the weekend struggling to hit 10 degrees, according to the National Weather Service in Albany, N.Y.
Some improvement is predicted for Monday, but it will be brief since a significant winter storm is heading for the region, forecasters say. Depending on the track of the storm heading toward New England from the Deep South, western New England could get snow, freezing rain, rain, or a mix.
Forecasters hoisted a wind chill warning for 24 hours beginning at 1 p.m. Saturday, citing a "potentially life-threatening situation with extreme cold."
The most severe deep freeze and strongest winds are expected in the higher terrain of the Berkshires and the Green Mountains of Vermont. Northwest winds of 10 to 20 miles an hour, with gusts to 35 mph, will yield wind chill readings between minus 25 and minus 45.
Under those conditions, frostbite can occur in 10 minutes or less on exposed skin. Frigid temperatures can cause hypothermia in a short amount of time. The forecasters urged residents to take proper precautions, including protection against frozen pipes.
The leading edge of the Arctic air was slamming into western New England on Friday afternoon, producing some outbreaks of snow. On the heels of the sharp cold front are "very cold and dangerous wind chill temperatures," meteorologist Brian Frugis said.
On Saturday, temperatures are slated to drop all day, he noted, with the lowest readings of the season at night — minus 10 to minus 20 degrees in the Berkshires and southern Vermont.
The Arctic outbreak is caused by a chunk of the polar vortex, the storm typically centered near the North Pole that tends to keep the coldest air trapped in northern Canada, AccuWeather senior meteorologist Alex Sosnowski said. Occasionally, this storm weakens or shifts enough to allow frigid air to plummet southward, he added.
By Monday evening, the region will be under the gun for an advancing storm system from the deep South with a surge of moisture from the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic. A second storm from the Great Lakes is expected to join the foul-weather party.
Some snow — how much is still up in the air — is likely on Monday night, with a changeover to sleet, freezing rain and plain rain after sunrise on Tuesday. The exact track of the storm will determine the amount of snow and the severity of potential icing.
Computer models indicate a large amount of precipitation, moderate to heavy at times, on Tuesday.
"While the temperature may get as low as all of last winter in some places this weekend, the cold air will not linger like it did last winter," AccuWeather Chief Meteorologist Elliot Abrams stated in a web post. "Temperatures will rebound over much of the East next week."
How cold was it?
Here's a sampling of air temperature lows recorded early Friday morning, as reported to the National Weather Service:
South Egremont: – 4
Pittsfield (airport): – 3
Adams: – 1
Great Barrington: – 1
North Adams (airport): 0
Arlington: – 8
Stamford: – 7
Bennington (airport): – 5
Brattleboro: – 5
Readsboro: – 4
Source: National Weather Service observation stations and observers
Deep freeze tips ...
• Be sure to cover exposed pipes to reduce the threat of frozen or burst pipes.
• Ensure your furnaces are in working order. Follow manufactures' instructions or utilize a qualified technician to ensure proper and safe operation of your furnace.
• Never venture outdoors without wearing gloves, a hat and several layers of clothing.
• Run water at a trickle and keep cabinet doors open to prevent pipes from freezing.
• Never use a stove or oven to heat your home or use an open flame to melt frozen pipes. Many house fires result from these practices.
• Never use a generator near or inside your home. Carbon monoxide poisoning is deadly. Check or install carbon monoxide detectors.
• Check tire pressure and your car battery. Be sure your car has a winter safety kit that includes a blanket, warm clothes and gloves in case your car breaks down or becomes stranded.
• Take extra steps to keep your animal companions warm and know their limits to cold.