Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Let's Get Back to Snow

After a very few hectic days at the GSD office, we're happy to see Sandy moving along and dissipating somewhere out there in middle America. We're not done with her yet as we'll still see lingering showers, wind gusts, and the occasional power outage for the next 48 hours.

The chance of a third hurricane day is infinitesimally low, so don't even go there.

There is some question if Monday's day will count toward our state-mandated 180 days/990 hours. In some states, a State of Emergency declaration doesn't have to count toward your days or hours. Last year, Connecticut gave a waiver to some districts for missed school days because of Irene, for example. We suppose it all depends on how many snow days we get this year and if towns start begging the Commonwealth for leniency about the number of weather-related closures. More to come (hopefully) on that topic at a later date.

So let's talk snow, our bread and butter. We don't have anything even approaching firm for you in the near future, but we do have our eye on dropping temps over the next week and forecasted precipitation on Wednesday into Thursday of next week. Temps will be cold enough for snow and/or ice. Precipitation amounts will be high enough for measurable snow. Put the two together and that means we should at the very least be on guard for a potentially developing situation. Realistically, it will rain next week, but there's still an outside chance for slush/ice/wet snow on the morning of November 8.

High temps will dip into the 40s next week with evening lows in the mid 20s, so it's definitely going to be feeling more and more like winter.

Don't get worked up about yet, but we're ever closer to our season's first measurable snow.

Monday, October 29, 2012

A Double Dip for Sandy

Mount Greylock Regional School District sent out its famed robo-call at 8:06 pm on Monday, ending a long day of speculation about whether school would be open on Tuesday.

When asked for an explanation for the delay in announcing the cancelled day, Superintendent Rose Ellis said, "I need to have a little fun every once in a while. I knew GSD said the call would be made between 5 and 8, so I decided to take it to the brink and let the little kiddoes sweat this one out."

Students of Mount Greylock Regional were not at all impressed with Dr. Ellis's shenanigans. "She's a sly fox that Dr. Ellis," said senior Bernie Krantz. "We're gonna have to keep an eye on her from now on."

Now that students have a second day off, teachers anticipate students will be clamoring for their homework assignments so that they have something to do with all their idle time. In anticipation of a flood of homework requests, middle school history teacher Pat White said, "No teacher is contractually obligated to email students their upcoming homework assignments for the week. But we don't want a riot on our hands on Wednesday from education-starved students, so for the sake of humanity we better comply."

The administration expects to announce its Wednesday school plans at an undetermined time on Tuesday via robocall, smoke signals from the school chimney, or carrier pigeon.

Sandy: Monday Evening Report (#1)

Perhaps it's just the vantage point of the GSD home office, but things really don't seem so bad out there. Yes, there are numerous power outages and we have seen a few strong gusts rip through our area, but this isn't anything we haven't seen before. Still, the strongest winds and gusts are yet to come.

Two interesting tidbits: 1) Sandy's low pressure reading is the lowest of any storm ever (on record, that is) that has occurred north of North Carolina. You can see why this storm made meteorologists a little skittish. 2) If your power does go out, don't expect it to get fixed any time soon as the winds are too strong for the trucks that are used to get workers up the utility poles.

Currently, the Berkshire schools that are closed are: Berkshire Hills, Adams/Cheshire, North Adams, Southern Berkshire, Clarksburg Elementary, Lee and Lenox. We do expect some districts to hold off on their decision until the Governor speaks about the storm later tonight. Those of you not listed above may have to wait it out a little longer to get the official word. But it looks like communities are queuing up to cancel school.

We'll use our Twitter feed to announce the other school closings as we learn of them. There still is an outside chance some outlier communities will have school, so the GSD Staff is going to settle on 90% for our Confidence Meter.

Tuesday School Cancellation Timeline

Even though barely a drop of rain has fallen in the Berkshires as of 2:00 pm Monday, there's no time like the present to begin speculating about the likelihood of another day off for tomorrow.

Here's what's working for us ("us," meaning those who like weather-related school closures):

1. Adams/Cheshire, North Adams, and MCLA are already in the house. Way to take the lead, Northern Berkshires!

2. The longer we go until the peak of the winds and rain shows up, the better.

3. Forecasters have noted that there's a lot of dry air at the ground level. For reasons a little too complicated to go into here, that means the winds will be stronger than normal if we had more typical moister air conditions. Gusts into the 70s are a very real possibility still, which means power outages and unsafe driving conditions, and you know what that means.

4. Power outages are already being reported in the Berkshires: New Ashford and parts of Lanesborough (that we know of).

Normally we would roll out a "here's what's working against us" list. But, you know what? There's not much to put on that list. You could argue that the storm is moving west away from us and will curl northward and around us, but even that storm path puts us in the high wind/damaging wind zone. As long as that high wind warning is still in effect through 11 am tomorrow, we just don't see any superintendents mean or crazy enough to take a chance and make the vulnerable children of our County go to school tomorrow. It just doesn't make any sense! [End hysterical soccer mom voice.]

Tonight's timeline. For the rest of us who still have school tomorrow: Superintendents should begin calling in the day off between the hours of 5:00 and 8:00 pm. We'll announce the cancellations via Twitter tonight as they come in. Just check the right side column of the GSD page (psst--over there, to the right) for the Twitter feed or start following us @GreylockSnowDa1 (don't ask--that's just how it is).

Also, a big thanks to Sandy, for it looks like GSD will go over the 100,000 pageview mark any minute now. And the Facebook following is up to 300. Good work GSD Supporters!

Will Sandy Cancel School Tuesday?

We at GSD are a little new at Hurricane cancellations--Irene didn't really give us a chance to practice last year--but we did lay out the possibility of today's (Monday's) scenario a few days ago (see scenario #3). Granted, we're were off by 24 hours and we didn't really see #3 as that viable, but that's because we did not foresee the impact of the Governor of the Commonwealth.

[For the record, we're not going to put the Governor on the Confidence Meter. He (or a future she) may step in from time to time, but if he calls for a State of Emergency for snow, you can pretty much guarantee the GSD Staff will have predicted a snow day by then.]

Yesterday's turn of events is a big reminder that cancellations often--and this may sound a little strange--have very little to do with the weather. The reason nearly every student from kindergarten through college is sitting at home today twiddling his or her thumbs (thumb-twiddling is still the time-honored way to fritter away hours of boredom) is because of the weather hype machine and the governor. Any one who half understands an image from Doppler radar could have told you it wasn't going to be raining or windy when we woke up on Monday in the Berkshires. The flood watch isn't in effect until noon (cautiously premature) and the high wind warning doesn't kick in until 9:00 am (again, ridiculously early). Without question, schools in Massachusetts could have gotten in at least a half day.

But the head honcho of the state made his decree and every superintendent had to live with it. You'll notice no such declaration came out of the mouth of Gov. Cuomo, and that's the reason very few New York schools were scrolling across your television screen while you were trying to watch the Sunday night football game. Since last night many schools in NY have decided to pull the plug early, which is the much more prudent call, and the one that would have made sense for the Berkshires if the Governor had actually looked at a weather map.

The GSD Staff is flat out skeptical about this storm. Already our predicted sustained winds are down into the 30 and 40 mph range, but the gusts in higher terrains could get to 75 mph, or so say the folks at NOAA. We think winds will be in that 25 to 30 mph range, and we might see a gust up to 55 mph. Is this wind speed enough to knock out power? Yes, but it seems unlikely that the entire County is going to be in the dark this afternoon and tonight.

Which brings us to today's pressing question: Are we going to have school tomorrow? Because of the slow-moving nature of this storm and the fact that it is still intensifying off the coast of Delaware and New Jersey, we don't see any reason why the Governor would lift the State of Emergency before noon tomorrow. There's also a little time left for the weather hype machine to jack up more hysteria. And once one or two good wind gusts rattle the windows at Superintendents' houses, you know the terrifying effect that's going to have. So, yes, we're in for a strong 80% chance of a cancellation right out of the gate. [editor's note: Adams/Cheshire, North Adams, and MCLA have already cancelled for Tuesday and did so on Sunday.]

Go outside, get some shopping done, get a few more groceries if it makes you feel better. The rain and wind are coming but not for several more hours, which is when you'll hear from us again. By all means be safe, but you should be able to go about your business until at least midday if not the mid-afternoon.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Hurricane Day for Monday; Tuesday, too?

Mount Greylock, BCC and MCLA are the latest Sandy casualties. Stay tuned for updates about the very real possibility that Tuesday will be called off also. Still haven't heard from Central Berkshire and Lee yet, but everyone else seems to jumping on the Hurricane Day train--woo, woo.

Sunday Evening Update #1: Things Are Heating Up

Things just got out of hand this afternoon, and the possibility is now a reality for several Berkshire County communities. Gov. Deval Patrick's State of Emergency declaration certainly kicked things into high gear, and we can confirm that Pittsfield, Southern Berkshire, North Adams and Adams/Cheshire are canceling school for tomorrow. Yes, that's right, tomorrow.

Other districts need to stay on the ball as county superintendents may all cave to peer the Governer's pressure and call school off. Very little has changed weather-wise, so this is all about the perceived safety of the students and staffs.

This won't be the last you'll hear from GSD tonight. See Twitter and Facebook for updates also.

Sandy: Sunday AM Update

Not much has changed from our previous post. We feel we're on target with our wind speed projections as well as our rain total forecast. The only big change is that we think that the peak of the storm will be in the overnight hours of Monday into Tuesday early a.m. This shift does raise the possibility of a hurricane day off from school for the region. Also, it's important to note that the higher wind gusts should effect the southern Berkshires more as they are closer to the storm's center.

Part of the reason for the early super hype about this storm is the rarity of the storm. The models essentially freaked out because they didn't and don't have a lot of storms like this one in their databases. Some of the models are still forecasting an incredible amount of rain, but most meteorologists are disinclined to believe those models. Human rationalism trumps modern technology yet again.

This interactive map's a nice one. You can see we're right on the edge of the high 50s for max wind speed.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Sandy Details Taking Shape

Finally, details are starting to take shape about how much wind and rain we can expect in our region from our new friend Sandy.

Sandy will snake her way into the mid-Atlantic region by late Sunday night into early Monday. She will move in a nearly westerly fashion away from us until she starts to bend her way back north and perhaps slightly north-north-east. We will stay on the easterly side of the storm, which means winds could be strong but the rain totals will be manageable. We'll be seeing a fair amount of precipitation--3" or so--by Wednesday.

Because river and stream levels are down from our summer drought, we should be able to absorb this rain; flooding should not be too great of a concern. It looks like to the GSD staff that the more significant concern is the wind, which could gust to 70 m.p.h. We think that realistically we'll see gusts approaching 50 m.p.h., but that's still nothing to shake a stick at. By all means get your deck chairs and patio furniture secure by Sunday afternoon.

The heaviest rain will now fall on Monday, during the afternoon and evening hours. Rain will be steady on Tuesday and diminish on Wednesday. We'll still have lingering intermittent showers all the way until Friday. There is the slightest of chances of a snow coating some time late Thursday into Friday but nothing that will even raise the eyebrows of superintendents or town road crews. Oh well.

So, really Sandy's going to be a big rain storm with the occasional serious gust of 50 m.p.h. winds somewhere between 3 pm on Monday and 5 am on Tuesday. Chances of a hurricane day are very limited, unless there are widespread power outages in the Berks in the overnight hours on Monday.

Waiting for Sandy

Frankenstorm. Mega-storm. Monster threat. Rare weather event. Hardly the aliases you'd expect to hear for such a sweet and innocent girl with the name of Sandy.

Did you even know the Europeans were any good at forecasting hurricanes? Neither did we. Apparently, meteorologists are preferring the European model to the American models as they look at the potential track of this storm. It's one thing to lose manufacturing jobs to India and China, but to lose out on hurricane forecasting hurricanes to the Euromets* just ain't right. Aw, c'mon!

About the storm...

The latest track has the storm making landfall over central New Jersey. The more northerly the landfall, the more rain and wind for us. The heaviest winds will be just to the east of the storm center. The heaviest rains will be right on the storm center or just to the west of it. It is almost assured that we will end up on the east side of the storm, and because we live in the beautiful Berkshires, there's this piece of info from NOAA:


Yikes. So, maybe we will have some downed trees and power outages after all. Which gets us back to the main subject at hand--will Mega-Super-Monster Storm Sandy cancel school next week? We at GSD say unlikely, but here are three scenarios to consider, in order of likelihoodness.**

1. A few isolated schools have to cancel because of the sporadic nature of power outages. If the heat can't come on and the lunches can't be made, then your school is likely closing for the day.

2. City schools close. Conditions are just too miserable for all the walkers. Party time in North Adams and Pittsfield!

3. The weather hype machine consumes the Berkshires. Meteorologists, town officials, the governor all advise extreme caution and urge people to stay indoors if they can. The County and the Commonwealth shut 'er down for the day.

Again, we see #1 happening and an outside chance of #2 and #3 occurring. We're still about 48 hours away from her ladyship's arrival so there's much more to be said in this space. Until we meet again...

*European meteorologists
**We know, we know. Just carry on.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Making Room for Sandy

Predictably, weather-hypers are backing down from some of their audacious claims of yesterday. Sadly, this tropical storm will not be pulling the cold north air into our region and dumping truckloads full of snow on the Berkshires. We'll just have to wait until mid-November for our first real snow of the season.

Still, this storm should be a fun one, if you go for that kind of thing. The current track has Sandy taking a left turn right down there around Lewes, Delaware and making its way inland in a northwesterly fashion. This track is of course about as predictable as a thirteen year-old with ADD, so we'll have to update a few more times over the weekend to let you know how the storm is going to impact our area.

And it will impact the area. This is a big storm. Even though today's agreed upon track has the storm going much farther south and west of us than yesterday's track, it still is going to give us heavy rain and strong, gusty winds. It's unlikely that we'll see widespread downed trees and power outages if Sandy stays on her current track, but a fifty or one hundred mile shift in the track will change the rules of the game significantly.

The timing right now looks like rain starting on Monday and then the heaviest downpours and winds hitting us on Tuesday. Rain and showers will certainly linger into Wednesday and possibly Thursday.

Here's a nice map of the storm track. The NWS will be doing a big storm update at 11:00 AM on Friday. We'll process that information for you and update later in the day.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Frankenstorm Lurks...

Oh what a difference a few days make. If you buy all the hype--and the GSD Staff realistically thinks there's reason to do so--then we might as well shut 'er down for the beginning of next week. As they say on t.v., this is gonna be huge.

Break out the old Grease VCR tape and get out Bruce Springsteen's Greetings from Asbury Park, because Sandy is coming back into your life with a vengeance. The meteorology media machine is running at full throttle at the moment, generating the kind of weather hysteria we've all come to know and love in the 21st century.

To keep it simple, just about anything could happen with this storm, including heavy mountain snow. Here's a tidbit from our friends at the Weather Channel:
NOAA's [forecaster Jim] Cisco said he could see the equivalent of several inches of snow or rain in the mid-Atlantic, depending on where the storm ends up. In the mountains, snow may be measured in feet instead of inches.
It's much too early to come to any kind of conclusion about what's really going to happen next week, but we'll certainly process the onslaught of information and get the word out as soon as we at the home office can give you something definitive.

Keep your guard up--we know these early storms and "Storms of the Century" are often overblown (!)--but if one of the predicted storm tracks turns out right, we could see several days of no school.

Keep the faith!

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Halloween Snow Again?!?!

Don't look now but that old feller Mr. Winter is lurking just around the corner. We're not going to get overly worked up about a forecast 10 days out, but our friends at Accuweather are currently predicting rain and snow for October 31 and November 1. Could we have a repeat of last October's record-setting snow fall? [Eyebrows raised.]

As we all know, last October's snow certainly did not usher in a winter to remember, so maybe we should hope that the current forecast for the 31st is just a bunch of malarkey.

We're certainly going to keep an eye on it for you as we get closer to the predicted date. Just because it's the first forecast for a possibly measurable snow, we at GSD are going to go on the record as openly optimistic at this early stage in the game.

By the way, GSD Staffers did spot the first flurries of the season on Friday, October 12th. Indeed, another great sign!

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Long-Term Forecast--October Update

The leaves are turning, the cider is warming up on the stove, the sweaters are making their way out of their storage bins--no time like the present to break out the most current and up-to-date info we have about the long-term forecast!

Hopefully this map will get you just a wee bit excited:

Courtesy of the Accuweather
Looks like the Berkshires just made it into the "above" range for the winter of 2012. Even if we have a normal snow fall total this year--in the 50-60" range--then that will feel like a veritable snow party compared to last season's paltry production.

The current line of thinking is that the first part of the winter season should be normal, but we could see a push of colder air in February, which would heighten the chances of bigger storms in the final third of the season. Our luck being what it is, we'll see a blockbuster during February vacation week, but who's really going to complain after last season?

The GSD staff does expect the first measurable snow to fall in November of this year. We may see a few flakes fly toward the end of the month of October, but currently we see no signs pointing to an early season storm like last year's outrageous Halloween snow-tease.

Look for more frequent updates in the weeks ahead.