Fire weather watch posted for region

WEDNESDAY, JULY 22, 2009, 3:44 P.M.

Thunderstorms with lightning possible

A fire weather watch was posted this afternoon by the National Weather Service for a risk of thunderstorms across the northern portions of Eastern Washington on Thursday afternoon and Friday morning.

A high pressure ridge along the Pacific coast is expected to buckle on its western flank, allowing an upper-level low pressure area to form west of the region and move eastward over the next two days, said forecaster Kerry Jones.

“While thunderstorms will be scattered in nature, abundant cloud-to-ground lightning is possible within the cores of these storms,” the fire weather watch said.

Thunderstorms late Thursday and Friday morning could also produce heavy rain, forecasters said. The low shifts into North Idaho later on Friday, but that area was not included yet in the fire weather watch.

The main threat will be in the Cascades, Okanogan Highlands and Northeast Washington mountains to the north of the Waterville Plateau and Chewelah and Fruitland in Stevens County. However, much of Eastern Washington south to Pullman and Connell is included in the watch.

Forecasted highs on Friday in Spokane are being lowered from the middle and upper 90s to about 92 degrees as a result of the upper low.

Extreme heat returns to the forecast over the weekend with a high in downtown Spokane of 96 on Saturday, 101 on Sunday and 102 on Monday.

A high of 92 was reached at Spokane International Airport on Tuesday.

Triple-digit weather is possible on Saturday and Sunday in the Spokane urban area, but other locations such as Post Falls, Spokane Valley and Coeur d’Alene may top out in the upper 90s to about 100 over the weekend, forecasters said. Monday is expected to be the hottest day in the next week with highs across the region hitting 100 degrees or hotter.

In the lower Columbia Basin from Connell southward, the weather service has issued a heat advisory today and Thursday for temperatures at or above 100.

The Spokane airport saw 100-degree-plus weather six times in the past three years, with a maximum of 103 last year on Aug. 17. The airport is 400 feet higher in elevation than downtown and often has highs that are a few degrees cooler than the main metropolitan area, meteorologists said.

Temperatures at or above 100 degrees have been recorded in just eight of the past 19 summers at the airport despite the three-year run of triple-digit heat dating back to 2006. The highest temperature recorded in 2004 and 2005 was 97 in each year.

At 7 a.m. today, temperatures were mostly in the 60s with 65 at the Spokane airport, 63 in Coeur d’Alene, 60 in Deer Park, 66 in Pullman and 59 in Sandpoint.

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