2,500 lightning strikes in Washington

About 10 wildfires started in northeast part of state



SEATTLE — Thunderstorms that rolled through Washington on Tuesday night and Wednesday morning sent down about 2,500 lightning strikes and started a few wildfires in the state.

“This is a high number of lightning strikes for the state as a whole, not just typical,” said Josh Smith, a National Weather Service meteorologist in Seattle. “We had some super-cells in Eastern Washington.”

Overnight thunderstorms in the Northwest generated about 8,000 lightning strikes in Washington, Oregon and Idaho, with most of them in Idaho, he said.

The lightning sparked about 10 wildfires in northeast Washington between Omak and Colville, said Department of Natural Resources spokeswoman Janet Pearce in Olympia. More may show up when smoldering embers are spread by winds though dry grass, shrubs and trees.

There also were a couple of small fires near Wenatchee, television station KHQ reported.

A similar lightning storm in September started dozens of fires in Chelan and Douglas counties that were known as the Wenatchee Complex.

While some of the thunderstorms produced only dry lightning, some had significant rainfall.

Heavy rain and 1-inch hail hit wheat country north of Coulee City in Douglas County, said meteorologist Ron Miller in the weather service’s Spokane office. He heard from a wheat farmer on the Waterville Plateau who was checking his crop for damage.

Forecasters had been concerned about the possibility of flash flooding in parts of Eastern Washington, but the storms moved through too fast to cause flooding, Miller said.

The storms also skipped some areas. There was no thunder or rain in Spokane, he said.

Storms rumbled in Seattle where thunder is seldom heard, but they left little rain. That’s because the storms were relatively high — above 10,000 feet, said meteorologist Danny Mercer in Seattle.

Only a trace of rain was recorded at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, so that technically extends the dry streak to 20 days, Mercer said. The last measurable rain at the airport was on June 27.

Forecasters say dry, stable weather is returning. Above-normal temperatures in the 80s in Western Washington and 90s in Eastern Washington are expected into next week.

The Sept. 8 lightning storm was blamed for starting more than 100 fires in the Wenatchee Complex. Many were small, but fires near Cashmere, Entiat and Wenatchee burned hundreds of acres, destroyed three homes and forced dozens of residents to evacuate.