August 29, 2013 in Washington Voices

Storm packed wind, lightning, but scant rain


Sunday was certainly a wild night weatherwise as another round of thunderstorms moved through Eastern Washington and North Idaho.

There were many lightning flashes and strikes, but not much rain – 0.03 inch fell at the Spokane International Airport; in North Idaho 0.1 to 0.25 inchfell.

Sunday’s storm did bring high winds. One of the highest gusts – 65 mph – was reported at Spring Canyon in the Upper Columbia Basin. Fairchild Air Force Base hit 61 mph, the airport had 54 mph and the National Weather Service in Airway Heights reported a wind speed of 62 mph. The biggest wind gust ever observed in Spokane was 89 mph, during a strong thunderstorm on Aug. 28, 2008. Hurricane-force winds begin at 74 mph.

By the way, the strongest wind speed ever recorded (officially) was at Barrow Island in Australia from Cyclone Olivia on April 10, 1996. Winds topped out at an unbelievable 253 mph.

Although most people are fascinated with the lightning show that Mother Nature puts on during a thunderstorm, that discharge of electricity is very dangerous.

Lightning is an electrical discharge between clouds or between a cloud and the ground. A bolt of lightning can be as hot as 50,000 degrees. The rapid expansion of the super-heated air produces an explosive shockwave that we hear as thunder.

Lightning is the No. 1 cause of storm-related deaths – about 200 annually in the U.S. – and damage costs are estimated at $4 billion to $5 billion each year in U.S.

There are about 100 lightning strikes per second globally, or about 8.64 million per day.

Thanks to a strong ridge of high pressure, I’m still looking for warmer-than-normal weather through at least early October. Later in fall, however, conditions should turn wetter than normal.

Contact Randy Mann at wxmann.

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