SEATTLE – The summer dry spell in Washington is likely to last into the first week of fall, forecasters said.
With no significant rain in the forecast in the state for the next seven days, Eastern Washington residents will have to wait longer for the showers needed to douse wildfires that have burned tens of thousands of acres around Wenatchee and Yakima.
“Looks like next week we’ll keep this pattern going,” said Art Gaebel, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service office in Seattle.
Some marine air expected in Western Washington over the weekend will bring clouds and slightly lower temperatures, but also the chance of thunderstorms across the southern Cascades.
“Sometimes they’re worse than the rain they drop with the lightning,” Gaebel said.
Most of the fires now burning in Washington were started by dozens of lightning strikes on Sept. 8.
The state’s stretch of dry weather started after the Fourth of July. No rain was recorded at Sea-Tac Airport in August and it was little more than a trace amount on Sept. 9 that ended a dry stretch at 48 days, the second-longest on record.
While most Western Washington residents have been enjoying the sunshine and 70- or 80-degree days, they know the change is coming. The summer high pressure system typically gives way to a series of Pacific storms in the fall. The change can come any time from late September to mid-November, Gaebel said.
Firefighters in Eastern Washington have said it will take steady rain or even snow to finally douse wildfires that have sent plumes of smoke into the sky, making for hazy horizons but spectacular sunsets in many areas of the state.
A high temperature approaching 90 with relative humidity in the single digits is almost unprecedented for this late in September, said Rex Reed, the incident commander for the Table Mountain wildfires that have burned more than 47 square miles around Ellensburg.
The dry weather was partly to blame for “extreme fire behavior,” he said at Thursday’s briefing. “We’re going to be at this for a while.”
A weak cold front on Tuesday will bring subtle cooling next week in Central Washington that may slow down the fires, and a temporary shift in the wind direction may help disperse some of the smoke around Wenatchee, the National Weather Service office in Spokane said.