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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Possible overnight dry lightning causes red flag warning in Spokane; smoke may lessen from nighttime winds

The spires of Saint Aloysius Catholic Church are clouded in smoke from regional fires are generating unhealthy air in much of Northeastern Washington and North Idaho, Mon., Aug. 13, 2018. (Colin Mulvany / The Spokesman-Review)

The possibility of lightning prompted a red flag warning Thursday night and Friday morning for Spokane and the Palouse region.

“We’re expecting storms to fire up after sunset tonight,” said Bryce Williams, meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Spokane. However, those storms are not expected to bring moisture, opening the way for wildfires.

This is the first time this year that a red flag warning has been issued as the consequence of potential lightning. During previous warnings, which resulted from hot, dry conditions, NWS urged people to be cautious with sparks or flames.

“With this, it’s kind of out of your hands,” Williams said. “Keep your eyes out for lightning. If you see fire or smoke, do some research and find out if it’s a new fire. If it is, let someone know.”

The Red Flag Warning runs from 11 p.m. Thursday to 11 a.m. Friday, at which point NWS will consider an extension.

Smoke could get worse

Smoke remained in the “unhealthy” category Thursday, according to the Spokane Regional Clean Air Agency, and Friday is forecast to be the same.

“We think conditions are going to continue as they are,” said Lisa Woodard, spokesperson for the Spokane Regional Clean Air Agency. “But we’re not forecasting that it will get worse.”

Thursday night could see gusts up to 30 mph, with the potential of clearing up some of the smoke that has lingered over Spokane for days, Williams said. If Thursday night doesn’t clear the air, it could be another week before winds sweep the smoke away, he said.

Next week, however the possibility of smoke drifting down from Canada returns.

“By Monday or Tuesday, we’re expecting winds to turn out of the north and bring more smoke,” Wiliams said.

Last week Spokane tied a 120-year-old record when temperatures reached103 degrees, marking the first triple-digit temperatures in three years.

Campfire ban

To reduce chances of wildfire, public lands in Eastern Washington are under a campfire ban, issued by the Washington State Department of Natural Resources starting Friday.

“We’ve had 47 wildfires started by campfires this year,” said Commissioner of Public Lands Hilary Franz, in a news release. “With nine active large wildfires in eastern Washington and a long season still ahead of us, it’s imperative that we’re doing all we can to minimize additional risk.”

Anyone who sees a wildfire should call 911 immediately, the news release stated.