The towns on the eastern slopes of the Berkshire Mountains awoke to a foot or two of powdery snow Thursday morning. But for most of Franklin County, the expected nor’easter wasn’t much more than a late winter snowstorm — a heavy wet “sticky” snow, picturesque, but soon to melt.
According to the National Weather Service, Monroe had the largest snowfall in the state, with 24 inches. Rowe was next, with about 18 inches of snow.
In Greenfield, the Department of Public Works reported 8 inches of snow in total.
“Wet and heavy” was how many in Greenfield described the slushy snow that came down on Wednesday evening through Thursday morning.
“We haven’t had a single call related to the snowstorm,” said Turners Falls Fire Department Capt. Kyle Cogswell. As far as the anticipated storm went, “we missed that jackpot area,” he remarked.
“We had very, very few outages in Western Mass. with this latest round of snow,” said Eversource spokeswoman Priscilla Ress. “We prepare year-round for storms by investing in tree trimming and upgrades that make our electric system strong and more resilient,” she said.
Ecologist Bill Lattrell of Heath, who has been tracking weather conditions for 30 years, reported his high-altitude town saw 16 inches of “beautiful, powdery snow.”
“It’s very unusual to get powdery snow this time of year,” said Lattrell, who is trained in climate change variability assessment from the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration. He said overnight temperatures around 20 degrees in Heath kept the snow light and dry.
Berkshire East also received 16 powdery inches — enough to have every ski trail open on what turned out to be a “snow day” for students in the Greenfield and Montague school districts.
“I’m standing up on the mountain,” Gabriel Porter-Henry shouted through a cellphone on the ski mountain. “It’s definitely a nice surprise to get a late-March snow. We’ve had good coverage on all the trails.”
Kristen Martin of customer services in Berkshire East said the ski area had a “decent crowd” Thursday and expected a busy night.
Why was there so much snow in some communities and less snow in others? It was due to something called “subsidence,” according to Dave Hayes, who is also known as “Dave Hayes The Weather Nut.”
Hayes, who reports on western Massachusetts weather, said strong, rapidly intensifying storm systems create bands of snow, which are narrow channels producing heavy snowfall. “In addition, on the northwestern edges of strong Nor’easters, a very heavy snow band called the ‘deformation zone’ forms, and many times these bands become stationary, which is what happened and why western Franklin County, southern Vermont and the northern Berkshires received 15 to 40 inches,” he said.
Hayes said the eastern sections of Franklin County were positioned between the stationary snow bands in the Berkshires and incoming ocean bands. In between those two, the heavier air sunk down and lightened the precipitation.