Motorists and pedestrians in the Berkshires and southern Vermont could encounter some treacherous travel late Tuesday into Wednesday morning.
A winter weather advisory from the National Weather Service in Albany, N.Y., is in effect from 4 p.m. Tuesday until noon Wednesday. A fairly weak storm off the mid-Atlantic coast is likely to cause a potentially hazardous blend of snow, followed by sleet and freezing rain that — despite light amounts — could coat road surfaces and sidewalks with a slippery glaze, especially after dark.
Starting Wednesday night, a much more potent storm tracking from the Golf Coast into western New York will yield a surge of mild air — a familiar pattern this winter — and a soaking rainfall into Thursday.
But first, the Wednesday morning commute to work and school may be dicey, and could cause the season's first delays or closings at some area schools if overnight temperatures remain at or below freezing.
Ice accumulations in Berkshire and Bennington counties are expected to reach one-tenth of an inch, but near two-tenths at higher elevations. That would be on top of an inch or two of snow, according to Hugh Johnson at the government forecast office in Albany.
The snow is expected to develop shortly before sunset in the Berkshires, he predicted, but not until late evening in southern Vermont. The transition to sleet and freezing rain is slated to begin after midnight regionwide.
By noon on Wednesday, rain should wash away any accumulations of snow and ice as temperatures approach the 40s.
Around daybreak Thursday, the heavy rain with temperatures surging into the low 50s and strong southerly breezes should make it feel like a taste of spring. There's even a possibility of thunderstorms during the early morning, Johnson pointed out.
For the weekend, tranquil conditions with dry weather and seasonable temperatures are likely. The average late February range in western New England is 18 for an overnight low and 36 as a typical afternoon high.
With March around the corner, forecasters at AccuWeather.com have issued their early-spring outlook — "meteorological spring" runs from March 1-May 31 — and daylight saving time returns at 2 a.m. March 13, with sunset just before 7 p.m.
"There could be a last surge of winter before we see the transition into spring," AccuWeather Long-Range Meteorologist Paul Pastelok stated. "For the Northeast, there's still an opportunity for some snow, although there's a higher chance that we'll see a cold snap rather than a big snowstorm."
A quick warmup will follow, however, allowing milder air to arrive earlier than it has in the past two years, he added.
"A lack of arctic air in the region and the sun getting higher and higher in the sky will make it feel pretty nice by mid-March in the Northeast," Pastelok predicted.
So far, the Berkshires remain headed for the mildest, least snowy winter since records began at Pittsfield Municipal Airport in 1938. Even this month, despite several cold snaps, temperatures are running 3 degrees above average, following a historic above-normal spell in December and January.
Snowfall to date at the airport, 12.1 inches, compares to the average of 58 inches from October through February.
Contact Clarence Fanto at 413-637-2551.
Tuesday afternoon: Light snow reaches Berkshire County by 5 p.m., slightly earlier in the south, later in the north.
Tuesday night: Snow reaches southern Vermont by 9 p.m. with a transition to sleet and freezing rain in the Berkshires between 9 and 11 p.m.
Wednesday morning: Freezing rain before dawn regionwide, changing to rain with milder air by noon.
Wednesday night and Thursday: Heavy rain throughout western New England, 1 to 2 inches, possible minor flooding, especially the Hoosic River in Williamstown. Thunderstorms could break out early Thursday.