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A view of the fresh snow in Seattle’s Ballard neighborhood on Monday, Feb. 4. (GeekWire Photo / Kurt Schlosser)

The snow that fell on the Seattle region at the beginning of this week managed to mess with commutes, work and school schedules and leave the city and surrounding areas a slippery mess into Wednesday. What’s coming up could be much worse.

We’re not in the business of predicting weather events here at GeekWire, but Cliff Mass, an atmospheric science professor at the University of Washington, certainly is. In his latest blog post, Mass writes that “confidence is high” that the next snow events, forecast to hit Friday and Saturday and then again Monday and Tuesday of next week, could be “absolutely classic.”

Mass doesn’t hold back and seems to empty his big-storm thesaurus in describing the potential for a major snowfall, based on what he’s reading in the UW’s high-resolution weather models and the European Center Model:

  • “In the Puget Sound region you MAY be able to get home [Friday afternoon] before the real action hits.”
  • “The snowfall over the next 24hr is extraordinary.”
  • “The set-up for this snow event is nearly perfect.”
  • “A veritable snow machine.”
  • “Unbelievable.”
  • “Snow apocalypse.”
  • “One of the greatest snow events in decades.”
  • “Huge snow dump.”
The European Center Model’s Seattle region forecast for snowfall by Feb. 13. (Via Cliff Mass blogspot)

Mass said that the first event will bring more accumulation to the lowlands than what we got on Sunday and Monday this week. Models differ on what the second event could bring, with the European model calling for over a foot of snow in central Puget Sound and two feet in some of the foothills locations.

“SDOT, WSDOT, and other local department’s of transportation need to get prepared for perhaps the snowiest period since the large snowfall of December 1996, when Seattle received 21 inches,” Mass wrote. “And yes, you might stock up on food before noon on Friday.  I certainly am.”

Mass is no stranger to keeping an eye on the weather models and sometimes seeing storms materialize and sometimes not.

He spoke to GeekWire in October 2016 when a “monster” storm was supposed to bring tropical storm-level winds to the Puget Sound region. The storm fizzled and forecasters and the media were left explaining what all the hype was about. Mass said it’s important for people to know what the worst-case scenario could be.

“Worst case tells people whether they should take it seriously, whether they should pay attention, and how particularly sensitive people should prepare,” Mass said at the time. “But I think we also have to give the most probable case, based on our ensembles. We have to give people information about the uncertainty in the forecast, what the range of possibilities could be.”

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