PITTSFIELD – There’s no escaping winter just yet.
The city recently experienced its third major snowfall since December, accumulating at least 15 inches by Winter Storm Stella’s end March 15.
On March 14, the National Weather Service issued a blizzard warning in effect until March 15 at midnight. On the same day, the city of Pittsfield declared a snow emergency and announced it would close city hall at noon.
The storm, overall, claimed at least 12 lives, including a Department of Public Works employee when the truck he was driving was struck by an Amtrak plow train in Longmeadow, Massachusetts. As of 5 p.m. March 15, about 19,000 National Grid customers in Massachusetts remained without power.
The city of Pittsfield cancelled its City Council meeting March 14, typically held every two weeks, and announced via its website that the council will address agenda items during its next meeting March 28.
Both local and state government officials took to addressing safety concerns during early stages of the storm.
School officials across the county announced school closures the evening before snow arrived, including all Pittsfield Public Schools. The city issued a parking ban, with the exception of North Street, which lasted from early Tuesday morning to Wednesday at 7 a.m. The speed limit along the Mass Pike was reduced to 40 mph as of 7 a.m. Tuesday.
Administrators at the Boys and Girls Club of the Berkshires were some of the first to announce closures for March 14.
“We made the decision to close the afternoon before [the storm],” BGC Athletic Director Dan Joslyn said. “We thought it would be too dangerous to have people on the roads.”
The city’s public services department was open during the storm to provide assistance for plowing emergencies, though.
Forecasters initially predicted 16 to 22 inches of snow and wind speeds of at least 25 mph with gusts as high as 40 mph. But snowfall only reach 14 inches by the end of March 14 and the highest wind gusts were recorded at 79 mph in Wellfleet on Cape Cod.
The storm touched the entire Northeast, grounding flights and closing schools from Pittsfield to Boston and New York City. The highest reports of snowfall came from West Winfield, New York with 42 inches, and a snowfall rate of seven inches in one hour was reported 13 miles east of Utica in Ilion, New York.
With residents still digging out of the snow, this week’s snowfall may seem like a record-setting amount, but Pittsfield’s record dates back to Jan. 29, 1945 with 30.6 inches, shortly followed by another 30 inches on Jan. 19, 1946.
The all-time snowfall record in Massachusetts belongs to Taunton, receiving 45 inches Nov., 30, 1896. The city did come close to reaching its March snowfall records, though, currently topped by March 6, 2001 and March, 31, 1997, which holds the record with 20 inches of snow.
During a press conference at the Highway Operation Center in south Boston March 14, Gov. Charlie Baker conveyed an update from the the Massachusetts State Police, reporting “very light traffic and no serious accidents” through state barracks.
“That’s good news so far, and we hope everyone continues to use their head and drive carefully if they have to go out. But most of all, we hope you can find a way to stay home,” Gov. Baker said around noon Tuesday.
During the storm’s initial stages, areas throughout the state experienced two to four inches of snow per hour, the governor stated, and the National Weather Service updated its snowfall prediction in the Berkshires to at least 24 inches, which never came to fruition.
While Secretary of Transportation Stephanie Pollack reported 10 inches of snow measured in Stockbridge as of noon Tuesday, Baker stood by his decision not to impose a travel ban or close executive offices as the storm would affect parts of the state differently.
The governor also addressed power outages.
Earlier, Baker urged local officials to “utilize points of contact to ensure we respond to these outages in an organized fashion.”
Matt Beaton, the state secretary of energy and environmental affairs, added that around 12:15 p.m., outages increased to 23,000, up from a previously stated 10,000.
“This could be a trend of what we see this afternoon,” he said.
As many as 70,000 outages were reported in Massachusetts during the first wave of snowfall, but less than 50 were reported in Berkshire County by 9 p.m. Tuesday, according to Eversource.
At the same news conference, Lt. Gov. Polito said workers would continue the snow removal effort and place sand and salt along the commonwealth into Tuesday evening.
Baker said while he knew most schools would be closed and employers would allow employees, to the extent that they could, to work from home, the Commonwealth did not see a travel ban across the state.
“I think it was the right decision to make,” Baker said.
Before the storm arrived, Baker said, "There's enough variety around this storm that a statewide travel ban just seemed like more than was required to deal with it.”
Daniel Bennett, the secretary of public safety, said over 900 police patrols were available if necessary.
The governor warned residents about shoveling snow at the conclusion of the storm.
“People need to take it easy out there and not exert themselves when it’s time to clean up,” he said.
This article first appeared in The Berkshire Courier.