July 9, 2009 in Washington Voices

Don’t let the rain fool you – heat may stay through August

Randy Mann
 

Many of us enjoyed the dry and warm weather pattern last month, which lasted through the Fourth of July weekend. But despite the recent rainfall, the brush around our regions has been labeled as “tinder dry.”

As of this Tuesday, some wet weather was still in the forecast, but we could certainly use more moisture that would likely tone down the high fire danger levels.

One of the worst firestorms in Eastern Washington and North Idaho occurred from Aug. 20 through Sept. 9, 1910. The National Weather Service rated this event as number four on the “Top Climate and Weather Events in the 20th century.” It is considered by many to be the largest forest fire in American history, perhaps the largest ever seen.

On Aug. 20 and 21, 1910, the fire raged across Eastern Washington, North Idaho and Western Montana, charring 3 million acres of timberland.

Hurricane-force winds made conditions worse as the intense flames actually created the fire’s own weather. Ships in the Pacific got lost in the thick smoke, which also reached the Atlantic coastline. By the time the fire was under control, 85 people – 72 of them firefighters – had died.

One of the other big fires in the region was the “Spokane Area Urban Interface Wildfire” – commonly called firestorm – on Oct. 16, 1991. Very dry conditions, combined with downed power lines from strong winds and other sources, led to multiple fires. About 100 homes were damaged or destroyed and two lives were lost.

For the next two months, I’m still predicting hot and dry weather in the Inland Northwest. However, there will be occasional thunderstorms, especially over the higher mountains. Conditions will remain tinder dry, and that may lead to more high fire danger levels, especially if there is dry lightning. Perhaps the hottest weather of the season should occur in late July and early August. It’s possible that we will see an afternoon or two with readings flirting with the century mark.

Cooler and wetter weather should arrive shortly after Labor Day. Some frosts and freezes may occur in the normally chilly zones of our region by the second week of September, well ahead of schedule and way ahead of last year.


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