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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Summer fires, dust storms expected due to low snowpack

OLYMPIA – Residents of Eastern and Central Washington should prepare for dust storms as well as wildfires this spring and summer, state officials warned Wednesday.

Gov. Jay Inslee and other state officials reported last week a “snowpack drought” – a shortage of snow in some of the state’s mountain ranges that means water supplies for some rivers, streams and reservoirs will likely be low this summer. The above-average temperatures and low snowpack are expected to create dry fields and forest beds throughout the eastern two-thirds of the state.

“Spring and summer thunderstorms will bring the threat of dust storms to the Columbia Basin and lightning-caused wildfires throughout the region,” Clint Bowman, an atmospheric scientist for the state Ecology Department, said in a news release.

Strong winds blowing over plowed fields can cause desert-style dust storms known as haboobs, which can create a wall of dust and dirt, cut visibility for drivers, down power lines and cause breathing problems for infants, small children and asthmatics, the department said. It recommends residents of Central and Eastern Washington carry a dust mask, especially for children.

The National Weather Service provides forecasts for potential dust storms on its website and the Ecology Department has tips on how to deal with the health effects of dust storms on its site. Links to both can be found at