Richard Terzieff marveled at the creamy white hail that covered the ground from a thunderstorm Thursday over the Logan Neighborhood in North Spokane.
“It was unbelievable,” he said of the storm that brought ice on an 85-degree noon hour. “It was pretty wild.”
An upper-level low pressure system off the Pacific Coast triggered downpours, hail, lightning and fires across the Inland Northwest, dampening an ongoing heat wave of 90-degree-plus temperatures.
Ellie Kelch, forecaster for the National Weather Service, said her office received a report of half-inch hail in the Eagle Ridge neighborhood of southwest Spokane.
The National Weather Service continued a red flag warning for fire danger through Friday morning.
About 450 lightning strikes were measured by detection equipment from noon to 3 p.m. Thursday, igniting a fire on the southwest side of Spirit Lake, and more than 75 wildfires in northeast Washington. More than 200 firefighters, 30 fire engines, five helicopters, and a 900-gallon air tanker were sent to fight Thursday’s fires, the Washington Department of Natural Resources reported.
So far this year there have been more than 500 wildfires sparked on private and public lands in the state; 100 more than this time last year. Fire danger has been upgraded from high to “extreme,” DNR officials said.
Officials with the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest reported 20 small fires – most smaller than one acre – ignited by lighting strikes, including 16 in the Methow Valley Ranger District. Combined with unusually dry fuels in the Okanogan forests, officials said the abundant lightning strikes have created explosive fire potential.
Isolated thunderstorms were forecasted through Saturday as the low stalls over the region and then is swallowed up by strengthening high pressure along the Pacific Coast this weekend.
Highs should be mostly in the upper 80s today and Saturday.
Hot weather should return by Sunday when highs across the region soar to the middle and upper 90s, with some locales possibly seeing highs near 100. Hot weather is expected to continue Tuesday, with temperatures cooling after that.
Agencies this week have issued warnings about hot weather.
Elaine Fischer, spokeswoman for the Washington Department of Labor and Industries, said people often forget that workers face risks of heat stress.
“Workers who are outdoors in hot weather also face very serious health risks if they and their employers don’t take proper precautions, such as drinking plenty of water, pacing their work and taking breaks,” she said.
Motor vehicles also can succumb to heat. The AAA in Spokane recommends that people check their coolants, batteries, tire air pressure and oil and to provide maintenance as needed.
Authorities also ask that people make sure that elderly residents are staying comfortable and healthy in hot weather. Animal welfare agencies have warned against leaving pets in parked cars on warm days.