Cooler temperatures this weekend will be a welcome reprieve. At least for some.
During the past week, several people have been hospitalized with heat-related illnesses, including one who remains in the Intensive Care Unit at Providence Holy Family Hospital. Heather Barfield, nurse manager for the ICU, said 20 people, ages 13 to 80, have come to the hospital’s emergency room with heatstroke or heat exhaustion. After a week of highs in the upper 90s, however, Spokane is likely to see more wet weather.
Today will be hot, with a high of 95 degrees, but heavy rain and thunderstorms are forecast to replace the July heat by Saturday, as a low-pressure system brings moisture inland.
The National Weather Service calls for a 60 percent chance of showers, which could be accompanied by thunderstorms and heavy rain. A quarter-inch of rain could fall in the strongest showers. Highs will reach about 83.
The stormy trend continues through the evening Saturday and Sunday. Highs Sunday should be in the lower 80s.
Despite the heat wave that struck Spokane over the last week, Washington’s weather has been mild compared to much of the rest of the country.
Every state in the contiguous United States except Washington had warmer-than-average temperatures for June 2011 through June 2012, according to the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration. It was the warmest consecutive 12 months the country has experienced since record keeping began in 1895.
And last month was the 10th-driest June on record, with drought spreading to 56 percent of the country, threatening corn crops in the Midwest and making it the largest drought footprint of the 21st century.
For Washington, Maine and Oregon, this June ranked in the top 10 for moisture in each state’s history. Florida, slammed by tropical storm Debby, was the only state wetter than Washington last month.
That’s because an unusually strong ridge of high pressure was sitting over much of the United States, bringing persistent dry and warm weather. In a smaller portion of the Western United States, including Washington, there was a persistent trough of low pressure that brought cooler-than-normal conditions and above-normal precipitation.
“We’re lucky,” said meteorologist Jonathon Fox. “It’s just kind of the persistence of the overall weather pattern that led to that difference.”
The hot, dry weather across the nation also led to wildfires burning 1.36 million acres during June, the second most on record for the month.
By contrast, Washington has seen a slow start to wildfire season. The cool, wet spring has kept the risk of wildfire low. Weather in July, August and September, however, is expected to be hotter and drier than normal.