Saturday, November 29, 2014

Watching Wednesday

The good news, Flake Followers, is that we still have two days left for our long Thanksgiving weekend. What's incredible to think about is that when we return to school on Monday, we'll only have 17 days of classes until the winter holiday break. This stretch from Thanksgiving to Christmas is always zany, but this year it's going to be more compressed, which means even less time to squeeze in all that shopping, all those holiday parties, and all those other holiday-themed events.

We might even have another a snow day or two to contend with, which would be unusual but delightful. We rarely get more than one snow day prior to the New Year, but maybe this year will be the year we buck the trend.

As for upcoming weather...

Look for possible drizzle and freezing drizzle at certain points in the overnight Saturday and into Sunday afternoon. The next eyebrow-raising event is a little something for Tuesday into Wednesday. Right now it looks like a snow-to-sleet-to-rain storm, with the progression beginning in the early Wednesday morning hours. We definitely need to keep our eyes on this weathermaker, as delays are certainly a possibility given the timing and type of precipitation forecasted for the morning commute.

This mixed precipitation could find its way into our area on Wednesday morning. Thanks to Accuweather for the image.
Until then, enjoy those leftovers and get your rest for the next phase of the holiday frenzy.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Storm Mincemeat Wrap-up

Storm Mincemeat just about delivered on its promises, dropping close to a foot in the Berkshires. At the GSD Home Office, we recorded 11 inches of snow. Official weather spotters reported 10 inches in Lanesborough and 11.5 inches in Pittsfield. The big winner was Savoy, with a robust 15 inches. Not bad for late November.

The surprise of the storm was the loss of power for several hours last night. Because the snow was so sticky and there was almost no wind associated with this storm, the snow clung to the branches to the point that many branches were overburdened and snapped. There will be a lot of clean-up ahead with this storm and the damage it did to trees.

Storm Mincemeat: Ha, ha! Have a big helping of snow!
Tree: I will bend but you will not break me.

As for the next chance of snow, we may still see a few potent snow showers for Turkey Day which could drop up to an inch on us. Other than that, we have our eye on a very brief period of snow for the afternoon on Monday and a chance at mixed precipitation for the morning commute. We'll attach the Wednesday disturbance to the True North Confidence meter; unfortuntely, we don't think it will amount to much.

Have a great day. Enjoy your time off, and if for some reason you're one of those people who insist on shopping on Friday, may the Good Fairy of Commerce keep you safe.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Storm Mincemeat Update--Midday Report

We're terribly sorry if you were not one of the schools who enjoyed a snow day or release today, which, unfortunately, was most of Berkshire County. We hope South County students were able to get home safely and the roads weren't too bad at the time of dismissal.

In Northern Berkshire, the first flakes of Storm Mincemeat started falling right after 10 AM. We were off by a 15 minutes or so in our prediction. By 11:15, the snow was starting to stick and by noon the roads were very greasy.

Because the thermometer is still above 32 degrees, the snow is a heavy, dense snow right now. As the temperature drops throughout the afternoon, the snow will become fluffier, and that will allow the snow to pile up even more.

As you can see from this radar shot, there's definitely some kick left in this storm. Those yellow and orange bands of rain (near Washington, DC) are on target to overspread our area later this afternoon. The snow is fairly light right now (1 PM); expect to see it pick up considerably in the next 5 to 6 hours.

When it's all said and done, we'll end up with at least a foot in most locations in the Berkshires. Some spots will top out around 16 or 17 inches. As of 1 PM, we're seeing reports of between 3.5 and 5 inches of snow already on the ground. At the GSD Home Office, we have 3.2 inches on the ground.

Kick back and enjoy it! Get out there and play in the white stuff. We all could use a little extra exercise today in advance of the feasting tomorrow.

Getting Ready for a Big Slice of Storm Mincemeat

[We're keeping a running list of school closures at the bottom of this post...]

Everything is still on track for Storm Mincemeat. In fact, some signs in the overnight hours suggest the storm could be stronger than we think, extending the snow cover farther north. Oddly, the temperature has gone up over the last few hours to the upper 30s, but now it's on its way back down. We could see a brief period of rain and sleet right at the beginning before it all turns over to heavy snow.

There is a TON of moisture associated with this storm. Once the snow starts to fall--and we think that will be between 9 and 10 AM in the Berkshires--it will not take long for it to come down heavily.

Here's the radar picture as of 4:15 AM. This green mass shows heavy precipitation moving north-northeast and it will get to our area in about 5 hours. The green will be converting to blue very shortly.
Those schools with 11 AM dismissals might sneak through okay; the noon commute home, however, is going to be unpleasant. After noon, the snow will be piling up significantly with rates of 2 inches an hour likely in the Berkshires. Make sure you have what you need for the big food festival tomorrow before 11 AM today; you're not going to want to be out and about between noon and midnight today.

Whether or not you get a snow day is very much up to the mood of your Superintendent. Also, once one Superintendent makes the decision to cancel school, more will follow. It's a big game of poker, and no one wants to reveal his or her cards too early.

We hope we'll be able to add to this list throughout the morning:


Berkshire Community College
Mohawk Trail Regional SD
Mount Greylock
Williamstown Elementary



Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Forecast Map Time!

The previous two posts break down Storm Mincemeat in more detail. Click here and here for more detailed info. (We just love writing the words "Storm Mincemeat," by the way.)

We are still very excited about tomorrow's storm. We might not get a snow day out of Mincement because most schools already have an early release, but just knowing that we'll get a foot of snow and will start a four-and-a-half day weekend is cause enough for celebration. If tomorrow were a normal Wednesday, we'd be endorsing early releases 100%, and those decisions would be coming in as we write this post.

Anyone with tests tomorrow should prepare for them, just in case. You don't want to jinx it for the rest of us.

Here's one of our favorite activities at GSD: showing the range of weather maps out there. From worst to best:

Springfield Channel 22
This map from the NWS shows the probability of 8+ inches of snow; the Berkshires are mostly in the 70-80% range.
Solid; not great. Accuweather.
Weather Channel; no problems there. 
Probably about right. Channel 13 Albany

Breaking News: Winter Storm Warning Extended for Storm Mincemeat

It may not sound all that exciting, but the National Weather Service's decision to extend the length of the Winter Storm Warning period is the BEST piece of news snow day lovers could have possibly received at this point in the developments.

Typically, we think of an extension as time added to the end of the warning period. But the NWS has extended the Warning period on the short end--the storm window is EARLIER than we thought, beginning at 5 AM instead of 7 AM. It's pretty easy to excite the GSD Staff, but this news has us all a-flutter in the Home Office.

Even if the snow starts falling as late as 8 AM, Superintendents will have to debate whether or not they want buses running at 11 AM or 12 PM when the snow intensity will be starting to pick up. Because the air has been so warm the last few days, it's likely the snow will not stick immediately. We're guessing that after three or four hours of snow the roads will be slick but, realistically, passable. Your more conservative Superintendents will not want to deal with the potential headache and call school off; the bolder Superintendents will hope to eke this one out. Also, geography will play a major role in the decision. South County schools will likely see the snow start closer to 5 AM; North County students will have to wait a few more hours.

So far, the only school to cancel for tomorrow is Berkshire Community College. We are guessing we'll see more schools throughout the night, especially in New York.

We will give the True North Confidence Meter a boost because of this news, but we're still not completely convinced all districts will cancel school tomorrow. Several will, and most probably should, but not all will enjoy the fruits of Storm Mincemeat.

Thanks to Steve Caporizzo for this image, the most encouraging one we've seen.

Understanding the Inner Workings of the Mind of the Superintendent

Here's what we know:

It's going to snow most of the day on Wednesday.
This nor'easter will start some time in the morning hours on Wednesday--between 8 AM and noon.
For once, then, something.

What is difficult to predict is how your Superintendent--who is ultimately responsible for making the BIG DECISION--is processing this information. Fortunately, the Psychology Department at GSD is ready to do the heavy lifting for this aspect of the prognostication for Storm Pumpkin or Mincemeat (poll closes at noon today!).

The first storm of the season always brings new pressures into the decision mix, and throw in a half day before a holiday, and the synaptic activity of the Superintendent will be through the roof today. Here are his or her most pressing considerations:

1. The early snow will melt when it hits the road so an 11 AM or noon dismissal might just be early enough to avoid seriously unpleasant driving conditions. No snow day.
2. Then again, snow could be falling at 1 or 2 inches per hour just at the time when students will be released from their holding pens, especially those cute little elementary school children. Yes snow day.
3. Many students and teachers will decide to leave for their holiday destinations tonight because of the impending storm. Absenteeism will be a significant problem tomorrow as it is. Yes snow day.
4. Then again, last year most school districts had to go right up to the end of June. No one wants to do that again. "Wasting" a snow day on a half day would not be prudent. No snow day.
5. [This scenario does not apply to all districts.] Let's say you are retiring in a few weeks. Let's also say you will be playing with your grandchildren in June and not worrying about the budget for FY 2015-16 or how late the school year is again this year. Why not give the people what they want right now? It's as close to a Presidential pardon as you're going to get. Exercise your executive power. Yes snow day.
6. Then again, a snow day decision should always be coldly rational. Research the facts of the storm and consider the safety of the student population. Check the radar at 4:30 AM Wednesday morning, talk to the bus company, and see what other districts are doing. Make the decision then. Maybe snow day.

This your Superintendent's brain the day before a storm.
Not so easy, is it?

Here's how we see it. Some Superintendents, who want nothing to do with the mental strain associated with this storm, will call in the snow day this afternoon and tonight. Besides being a really shrewd political move, it will give travelers in those districts a jump on the storm. Be on the lookout for those early birds.

Most, though, will take the wait-and-see approach and announce their decision in the normal 5 AM to 6 AM window. Given the uncertainty of the arrival of the first flakes, this course of action (sadly) makes the most sense.

But just to muddy the waters more...

As of 10 AM on Tuesday, we observed that the leading edge of the precipitation is already off the coast of New Jersey. There's a lot of energy transfer and development that still needs to happen (not to mention the temperature has to drop by 20 degrees), but the nose of this storm could push into our area earlier than we thought. Yes snow day.

We'll have much more later, including the official announcement of the first storm of 2014-15's name.

Winter Storm Warning Upgrade

Please refer to our last post for more detailed information, but we just wanted to alert you that the NWS has converted our Watch to a Warning. This is a good sign as it means that the weather experts think that snow is certainly going to fall in our area.

There still is disagreement about the amount of moisture associated with this storm. Some say .6 inches; others, over an inch. If the storm averages a snow to liquid ratio of 10 to 1, we will see between 6 and 10 inches of snow starting Wednesday morning and going until 2 AM on Thursday.

Later today we'll have a detailed analysis of the factors a Superintendent is considering as he or she decides to grant us a snow day or not.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Game On...Major Snow for Wednesday

Flake Followers, we have ourselves a snow storm. Here's the latest snowfall prediction map from the National Weather Service in Albany:

All you need to know is that the bright fuchsia patch you see over the Berkshires, northwestern Connecticut and southern Vermont means 10 to 14" of snow.

From what we can tell, this storm will be a fast one so the snowfall rate could be very intense in the afternoon hours. We're getting a variety of reports on the exact timing, but it looks like the snow will start to fall in Southern Berkshire County between 9 AM and 10 AM and between 10 AM and 11 AM for Northern Berkshire County.

The timing of the start of the storm is really the only variable that we're focused on at the moment. If we are to see widespread snow days on Wednesday, it will all depend on the projected start of the snow. Right now we think it will be a 50/50 call for your Superintendent and whether or not he or she wants to give you a little extra Turkey Day time.

We will update throughout the day tomorrow once we get better intel about the start of the storm. As for Wednesday travelers, you will need to head out of Dodge by 5 AM if you're heading west, east or north. If you're heading south, you might want to leave Tuesday night or wait until Thursday morning.

Get those shovels ready and get some gas in the snowblower! You'll need extra time to dig out on Thursday.

Winter Storm Watch for Wednesday and Thanksgiving

This just in...

The NWS has already issued a Winter Storm Watch for Wednesday morning (7 AM) through Thursday (10 AM). The storm we wrote about yesterday seems to be shaping up, and the likelihood for 6+ inches appears to be quite good. The NWS issues Watches when there is a chance for 7+ inches in a 12-hour period, or 9+ inches in a 24-hour period. We could reach both thresholds with this storm.

Our latest look at the snow forecast (through noon on Thursday) reveals a very good chance at 6-8" of snow. If everything comes together perfectly and the snowfall is maximized, we will be looking at 12-15" in the Berkshires.

Thank you, Accuweather, for this image.
If you were planning on travelling on Wednesday, you really should adjust your plans and head out early Wednesday morning. The flakes should be flying by noon on Wednesday in Western Mass.

If the Watch becomes a Warning and the storm speeds up by four or five hours, we might see several districts call off school on Wednesday in anticipation of a heavy snowfall. Because most schools have an early release scheduled already, it will be a snow day or nothing on Wednesday.

We should be able to make firm predictions for school on Wednesday by tomorrow night.

In the meantime, make sure you vote for this storm's name so we can make it official!

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Turkey Day Storm Update

One of the big concerns we have at the GSD Home Office is the degree to which we play a part in the winter weather hype machine. Because we are an independent operation without any sponsorships (minus one), and because the success of GSD isn't about clicks on ads or numbers of pageviews, we really are only interested in giving you the most honest, hype-free advice about upcoming weather systems that we can. As tempted as we are to try to influence Superintendents about making snow day decisions, we can't in good conscience hype up a storm in order to do that. Believe us.

Which brings us to the Thanksgiving Storm of 2014. You are going to hear a ton of info about this storm in the next few days given its timing and its impact on the busiest travel day of the year. This storm is no snowmageddon, but it has the potential to drop a foot on many locales in interior New England, which would include the Berkshires. It's not to be taken lightly.

Here's a fascinating image:

Image courtesy of the NWS.
This image shows a forecast image for snow through Wednesday at midnight. The dark blue area represents up to 8" of snow. The darkest green is 6" of snow. This forecast map only goes through midnight, so there would be more snow on top of these 6 or 8 inches if we had a Thursday map. What it all means is that we are looking at between 6 and 12 inches of snow from Wednesday afternoon through Thursday, according to the most recent runs of the computer models.

Unfortunately, the models aren't always right, and we at GSD are going to hedge on the bet that this storm will be a major one. We'll still roll out our first naming poll of 2014, but at this point in the proceedings we think 4-6" is a more likely outcome for this first storm of the season. Our rationale is that these storms in the early part of the season can fizzle and head out to sea, which the North American model is predicting. We're rooting for the big storm scenario the Euro model is forecasting, but our staff is leaning more toward the North American model. [Still, the North American is showing signs of starting to move more in line with the Euro model (but we'll have more on that tomorrow).]

Whatever ends up happening, travel will be a problem in the afternoon and evening of Wednesday. Thursday morning travel will also be slow going. We don't think the storm will linger beyond noon on Thursday.

Image courtesy of Accuweather.
Stay tuned for many more details about this exciting development, even if it isn't going to impact school.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Dreaming of a White Thanksgiving

The GSD Staff took a little field trip this weekend to check out the state of things in Western New York. What a mess. But the pattern has fortunately broken. The snow machine producing the lake effect snows has turned off, and now the major concern is flooding because of the rain and the 50 and 60 degree temps expected for Monday. 

For Saturday night, we have a WWA in effect for Northern Berkshire because of the chance of freezing rain and sleet. Roads could be tricky tomorrow morning. Take it easy. 

The big news is the possible blockbuster storm for Wednesday night into Thursday. The Euro model is currently predicting a major snow storm. The North American model is only calling for a light snow event. A major storm would indeed "fowl" up a lot of people's plans for Thursday. 

We have set up round the clock surveillance of this storm. It will not impact school at all, but it could impact the holiday weekend in a big, big way. 

Much more to follow!

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Snow Squalls for Tuesday

You may have noticed a few heavy snow showers this morning. As exciting as it is to see the flakes a-flying, these squalls will be diminishing throughout the day. Instead, we will have breaks of sun and brutally cold temperatures for this time of year, not to mention a stiff breeze to contend with.

The snow you see here--captured at 9:10 AM--is heading due east. We might catch a few more flakes before noon, but that will be the end of it.

Unfortunately, we don't see any major storms on the meteorological or the geographical horizons. Perhaps some rain late in the weekend and/or snow showers for Thanksgiving.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Take it Easy Out There

The road crews are out in Northern Berkshire, but we have no reports of delays for schools in the Berkshires. Several schools in New York have called for the first delay of the season, but nothing doing so far for Berkshirite students.

The snow is starting to transition to sleet as of 6:15 AM. The shift to all rain could occur even earlier than we thought, around 7:30 or 8:00 AM.

Drive with caution this morning, especially you new drivers out there.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Wintry Mix for the Morning Commute

For your evening update...

The WWA is still in effect for tonight but the snow totals have been revised. It looks we'll see only see an inch but it's the sleet and freezing rain that have weather people concerned.

The timing of the sleet is of the most concern--right during the morning commute. But then it will change to all rain by about 10 AM. 

The most conservative of superintendents might call a delay, but we still don't see a need to raise the True North Confidence Meter above 30% for a delay only. There is no chance for a full snow day. 

Definitely tune in tomorrow morning in case things get wacky. 

Winter Weather Advisory for Monday!

The storm we were talking about a few days ago is starting to take shape, and all we can say is that we have a mess on our hands for Monday.

The NWS issued a WWA for the Berkshires, which starts at 1 AM Monday and goes to 7 AM Tuesday morning. This will NOT be a heavy snow event. The Advisory calls for 1-6" inches of snow, with the hill towns getting the higher amounts. Six inches for the Adirondacks makes sense; for the Berkshires--unlikely.

What's a little head-scratching about this storm are the types of precipitation. We will see snow at the start (possibly gumming up the morning commute), then a shift to sleet/freezing rain, then rain, and then back to snow in the overnight hours early Tuesday. Any little shift of the storms (there are two low pressure systems) will impact the snow/sleet/rain totals.

All indications suggest an inch or two of snow early Monday and then the changeover to sleet and then rain. The air should be cold enough for the snow to stick on the roads, and your local road crews could be out in force during the morning commute hours on Monday.

At this point the GSD Staff's position is a 30% chance of a delay for some school districts on Monday.

We'll provide an update much later tonight, hopefully before 10 PM.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Snow Likely On Monday

Happy weekend, followers of the flake. We topped out at 1.7 inches at the GSD Home Office Thursday night/Friday morning. We're well on our way to a seasonal record!

If it's going to be cold, it might as well snow, right? Well, it looks like we only have to wait until Monday for another shot of the white stuff. Our two favorite models--the Euro and the North American--are starting to agree and a good shot of wet snow looks likely for midday Monday into Monday night.

We might get our first WWA--Winter Weather Advisory--on Monday for Northern Berkshire County. Some lower-lying areas might see the snow change to rain on Monday, but the higher elevations should stay all snow. Four-to-five inches is possible for some locales in the County.

Because the temperature won't be that low, expect most of the snow to melt when it hits the asphalt. It could be slick for the evening commute home well after the buses have made their afternoon loops. There will be no early releases on Monday.

Much more to follow. Get that shovel ready.

Snow is in the Air

Around 8 PM Thursday evening, the first true flakes of the 2014-15 snow season were a-falling in Northern Berkshire County. Here's a quick video of "proof" of our first snowfall:

The snow should taper off by 2 AM. Even though the snow is accumulating on the grassy areas, it's not accumulating on the roads, so the morning commute should be without incident.

Keep your eye on Monday for our next chance for accumulating snow.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Snow Tonight!

The GSD Staff is happy to report that we will see the first accumulating snowfall for the Berkshires this evening. Rejoice, rejoice.

Most of us should see a covering, but in the hill towns it won't surprise us one bit to see 3 or 4 inches of snow. Just to cover ourselves, we'll throw a 5% chance of a delay on the ol' True North Confidence Meter just in case everything were to break our way.

Local forecasters have pushed the snow line farther to the west. (Image courtesy of Accuweather.)
One of the preachier members of our staff wants to remind you that most drivers are idiots and forget how to drive in the snow during the off-season. Mind you, that's not how we all think, but she does have half a point. She also says to allow extra time tomorrow and not be lazy about cleaning off your windshields.

As for the storm on Monday, it's still very much up in the air whether it will be snow or rain. Either way, the timing doesn't look great as it appears to be a late morning/midday storm on Monday. The overall moisture totals will be higher than Friday's weather-maker, so we're definitely keeping an eye on it should there be enough cold air in place for all snow.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

What Does the Polar Vortex Mean for the Berkshires?

The media is all over the Polar Vortex that is only hours away from the Berkshires. You would think that the end is nigh. Stock up on provisions? Secure all children and valuables? Don't leave your pet outside for too long?

As the young people used to say, "Everyone chill-ax."

It's going to get cold for the next two weeks. But by "cold" we mean cold by November standards. It really isn't going to be that bad (more like a typical December). What's unusual is the cold will be locked in all the way to Thanksgiving. Most days will be a few degrees short of 40; at night we'll see low 20s. Your best preparation for the vortex is to get the windshield scraper sharpened up.

As for weekend snow opportunities, we might see snow showers late Thursday night into Friday morning but they will not accumulate. As for Sunday into Monday, the Euro and North American models are more in agreement that a weak coastal storm will give us the chance for some snow on Monday and possibly into Tuesday. There is even some question if the precipitation will even be in the form of snow. Either way, there's not a lot of moisture in the equation so we do not in any way expect school officials to shorten the school day either at the end or start of school.

Until we meet again...

Sunday, November 9, 2014

When's It Going to Snow?

It's a Sunday in the fall in the Berkshires, so that must mean it's time for another potential snow update from your friends at GSD.

Last week was a week of near misses. Snow showers were in the forecast for several days last week, but we didn't see much in the way of frozen precip until Friday night. At one point both the Euro and North American computers had been forecasting a plowable snow event for last Wednesday; needless to say, that storm did not develop. But we did have a few blasts of sleety-snow squalls in Williamstown on Friday night, and the hill towns had a dusting of snow by Saturday morning. For parts of Berkshire County, it was the first measurable snow of the season.

As for the week of November 10th, we will have to wait until Friday before we see our best chance of the white stuff. Temps will be quite mild on Monday and Tuesday (maybe we'll see 60 on Tuesday), and then the cold front will start to creep toward us starting on Wednesday. According to our latest data, we could see accumulating snow showers during the day on Friday as the coldest air of the fall pushes eastward. But the better news is that a larger storm could be taking shape for Sunday into Monday morning. There's an outside chance we could be talking about delays for Monday, November 17. Bring it on, Old Man Winter!

Cold air is a-comin'. (Image courtesy of Accuweather)
Of course we have the GSD collective eyeball trained on it, and we'll let you know should the weather news grow more encouraging as we get closer to the weekend. Until then, thank a veteran if you meet one on Tuesday as you enjoy your day off. If you don't have the day off, thank a veteran anyway. And, of course, keep your fingers crossed that the storm at the back end of the weekend grows into a bigger event.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

It's November and Snow is in the Air

Happy November, Faithful Followers. The month is starting off in fine fashion with the first flakes a-flying (possibly) for Saturday evening.

We have a fairly potent coastal storm developing that will ride up the Eastern seaboard. Unfortunately, it will stay too far out to our east to recreate the 2011 Halloween event, which it certainly has the energy to do (exhibit A, the image below).

All of Berkshire County could see its first covering of snow on the ground by midnight tonight. Most likely, it will melt before it will accumulate, but we're only looking at a half inch or maybe even a full inch in the Northern Berkshires.

The snow window looks to be between 4 PM and 11 PM.

Not so very far away, is it? (Thanks, Accuweather, for the image)

As for future storms, our various weather sources have us focused on the end of next week. We see a little ice and some rain changing to snow for Thursday or Friday. It's possible it could create a delayed start to school, but it's much too early to tell. Temps will more or less stay in the 40s for the next 10 days or so. At the moment--and it is only November, let us remind you--we see no big snow-making storms on the horizon.

Enjoy your chilly Fall weekend (and perhaps our first measurable snow).