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First storm of season proves hazardous on roads

Winter weather wrapped itself around the Berkshires on Monday for the first time this season, causing power outages and making for a treacherous morning commute while giving off December vibes.

Snow, sleet and freezing rain from a coastal storm near Boston began falling by daybreak, leaving about an inch of frozen precipitation on area roads before ending by noon. The wintry mix caused numerous accidents, mostly fender benders and vehicles sliding off the road. None of the accidents involved serious injury, according to local and state police.

Nevertheless, local towing services were busy, with R.W.’s Inc. in Lee responding to 12 accidents on the Massachusetts Turnpike.

“Our first call was for a two-car accident at the Lee-Becket line, and it was non-stop after that,” said Bill Brunell, R.W.’s co-owner .

The worst motor vehicle mishap occurred shortly after 11 a.m. on Old Cheshire Road in Lanesborough, when an oil delivery truck from O’Connell Oil Associates flipped on its side near Camp Mohawk.

The driver, who wasn’t identified, suffered minor injuries and was taken to Berkshire Medical Center as a precaution, according to company officials.

“I was outside moving my vehicles when I heard the truck crash,” said Camp Mohawk’s owner, Dave Schulman. “Considering what happened, [the driver] was very lucky.”Only a small amount of diesel fuel from the truck’s gasoline tank leaked out, and it was cleaned up by highway crews, according to eyewitness reports from the scene.

“I was outside moving my vehicles when I heard the truck crash,” said Camp Mohawk’s owner, Dave Schulman. “Considering what happened, [the driver] was very lucky.”Only a small amount of diesel fuel from the truck’s gasoline tank leaked out, and it was cleaned up by highway crews, according to eyewitness reports from the scene.

O’Connell’s officials wouldn’t confirm how much fuel leaked. Company employees spent the afternoon pumping fuel from the overturned tanker into another vehicle so that the tanker could be righted and towed away.

Lanesborough police did not return phone calls seeking information on what caused the accident.

While Berkshire residents scrambled to find their ice scrapers and snow shovels from last winter, local highway crews were ready to salt, sand and plow — six weeks before winter officially begins.

“We were all set and had trucks on the road by 5:30 a.m.,” said Jeffrey Vincent, superintendent of Lenox’s Department of Public Works. “We made sure we had enough vehicles ready to deal with this [storm].”

Local cities and towns generally gear up for winter weather by Nov. 1, and Sheffield was no exception.

“Our town highway department had plows ready to go,” said Town Administrator Joseph Kellogg. “You never know when winter weather will begin.”

Utility crews from National Grid and the Western Massachusetts Electric Co. were kept busy as gusty winds knocked down tree limbs, causing scattered power outages throughout the county, according to officials from both companies.

Despite the head-start to winter, local skiers will have to curb their enthusiasm about an early beginning to the downhill season. Ski area officials said Monday they hope their resorts will be operational by early December, with Jiminy Peak Mountain Resort in Hancock shooting for its traditional opening by Thanksgiving weekend.

“The second we get sustained 32-degree temperatures, we’ll start making snow,” said Betsy Strickler, Jiminy’s director of marketing.

“We have a month to go before we open,” said George Jervis, owner of Bousquet Ski Area in Pittsfield. “We’re not going to make snow when it’s 55 degrees.”

The forecast for today calls for a high of 45, with a 30 percent chance of rain and/or snow. High temperatures are projected to be near 50 for the rest of the week.

Source:  Berkshireeagle.com


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