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Seattle City Light workers
Seattle City Light employees work at a substation. (Credit: Seattle.gov)

There’s a storm coming. A big one. So big that Seattle weather guru Cliff Mass says it could match the “most powerful storm in NW history” – the Big Blow, which hit exactly 54 years ago today.

“My head is spinning with the action that may be occurring around here,” the University of Washington professor of atmospheric sciences wrote in a blog post on Tuesday.

This morning, he followed up by calling attention to an “amazing plume of moisture” spreading across the Pacific and leading to Typhoon Songda. “Never saw anything like this,” he said.

The action is expected to start on Thursday, when a strong Pacific cyclone approaches the coast. That could whip up winds that gust up to 57 mph along the coast and over portions of Seattle.

“Expect a lot of power failures,” Mass said. “Be prepared.”

As the low-pressure system swirls eastward, Seattle could get a couple of inches of rain, whipped up by winds. Mass said Friday’s storm could represent one of the strongest weather events of a typical weather season. “But folks, this is just a warmup for the real action on Saturday,” he added.

That’s when an even more powerful cyclone, associated with the remnants of Typhoon Songda, is due to hit the Northwest. Computer models suggest that its strength could hit the same level as 1962’s historic Columbus Day storm, with sustained winds in excess of 60 mph.

Mass noted that the heart of the storm isn’t currently projected to deal a direct hit to Seattle, but he also said there’s some uncertainty to the models.

“If the models are wrong, and the storm’s track heads further east, Puget Sound could get a very major hit with massive power outages and damage,” he said. “This is a very dangerous storm.”

For what it’s worth, The Weather Channel’s Brian Donegan concurs with that opinion. He sees “the potential for destructive winds, flooding rain, huge waves and coastal flooding in Washington, Oregon and far northern California.”

So … what should you do about it?

Make sure you have an emergency preparedness kit that includes a working flashlight, a portable radio (remember those?), extra batteries, a manual can opener, and glow-in-the-dark light sticks or electric lanterns. The American Red Cross gives you the complete rundown on what the kit should contain.

The Red Cross also advises having up to a week’s worth of food and water on hand for emergencies, and keeping your car’s gas tank full.

For communication, have a corded, wired phone available if you can. (Cordless phones won’t work during a power outage.) Keep your mobile devices charged up, and top off any portable chargers as well. Be extra-vigilant about backing up computer files, just in case there’s an extended outage.

You can be a good neighbor by clearing away leaves and other debris from storm drains in advance of the storm, and trimming back any tree branches on your property that might cause trouble if they were to break off. If the storm gets really wild, stay safe inside if you can – and stay off the roads.

Seattle City Light has its own tips for reporting and dealing with power outages, as does Puget Sound Energy. PSE has a mobile app that can help you report and track outages, while City Light has a mobile-friendly website for doing the same.

For still more advice, including emergency checklists printed in 10 languages, check out the “Take Winter by Storm” website.

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