Summer is definitely in full force here in North Idaho. Round 1 of the July heatwaves occurred July 5 through 7 when at least seven high temperature records were broken from Bonners Ferry to Coeur d’Alene and south to Lewiston. Coeur d’Alene saw temperatures soar to 101 degrees on July 5, while Lewiston scorched at 108. Bonners Ferry, Winchester and Sandpoint did not get to 100 degrees, but still managed to break their respective high temperature records for that day. Across the border in Montana, Missoula saw its all-time record high of 105 degrees set in 1973 shattered when it reached 107 degrees on July 6.
We are now finishing up Round 2, and most likely will have broken many more records. I’ve often wondered, when temperatures are in the low 100s, if it would really feel any different at 110 or even 115 degrees. I don’t plan on heading out to places like Lewiston or Orofino to find out though. The all time hottest temperature ever recorded in Idaho was 118 degrees at Orofino on July 28, 1934.
It may be hard to believe, but some locations in the United States see this kind of heat on a much more regular basis. For the first week of July, Las Vegas had an average high temperature of 113 degrees. They had nine consecutive days of over 110 degrees tying a record for the second longest streak of 110-plus degree days (the longest is 10 consecutive days). The overnight low on July 7 for those folks was 90 degrees, which also did break a record for the warmest “minimum” temperature. Not to be outdone, highs in Death Valley, Calif., for the first week of July have averaged 124 degrees.
The latest in extreme heat across much of the Western U.S. goes hand in hand with the devastating drought and subsequent wildfires. Hot and dry weather has plagued the Eastern U.S. as well. Atlanta is experiencing the seventh driest year on record with rainfall totals at 12 inches below normal so far this year. Because the atmosphere likes to have some kind of balance, you can probably guess what gets sandwiched in between two hot and dry regions. The answer is the flooded South and Central Plains. Dallas/Fort Worth has been setting weather records of its own, most of them having to do with rainfall. In the first nine days of July, 4.36 inches of rain had fallen. Add to that the 11.10 inches that fell in the month of June. In our neck of the woods, the rain gauge has been bone dry since the wet and stormy weather on June 29.
The seasonal drought outlook produced by the Climate Prediction Center, and which goes through September, paints North Idaho in an area of drought development along with Eastern Washington and Western Montana. We have yet to reach the “peak” of the summer season in terms of high temperatures and dry weather. I don’t expect this will be the last we see of triple-digit highs. There should be a break in temperatures this coming week, though precipitation will be scant. What unsettled weather we do have come along in the next couple of weeks, may end up being more of a liability in the form of dry thunderstorms.
Fire weather season is definitely upon us, and dangerous wildfires will be a real threat across the region in the coming weeks.