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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Overnight storm brought more than 1,000 lightning strikes and left thousands without power in Spokane area

UPDATED: Tue., June 15, 2021

Lightning flashed more than 1,000 times early Tuesday in the Inland Northwest as storms rolled through the region. This band arrived in Spokane before 3 a.m.  (National Weather Service)
Lightning flashed more than 1,000 times early Tuesday in the Inland Northwest as storms rolled through the region. This band arrived in Spokane before 3 a.m. (National Weather Service)

A series of fast-moving thunderstorms across the Spokane area left many without power early Tuesday morning and brought with them some 1,000 lightning strikes that illuminated the sky.

“Those are some of the fastest storms I’ve seen around here,” said Mark Turner with the National Weather Service Spokane. “These things were really cooking.”

A series of thunderstorms, some moving up to 60 mph, passed through the Spokane area Monday night and early Tuesday.

“There were just so many small storms, it was like just a stream of storms coming up from the South,” Turner said.

Likely the most memorable storm happened at about 3 a.m., Turner said.

“It intensified as it went over town,” he said.

Wind at the Spokane International Airport measured 39 mph, but in Felts Field gusts were up to 45 mph.

The storms were loud and didn’t drop a significant amount of rain. Felts Field got 0.47 inches as of Tuesday evening, while Spokane International Airport got 0.37 inches, Turner said.

“These storms were real high-based,” Turner said. “They weren’t close to the ground, so there’s a lot of space for evaporation.”

What the storms lacked in rain, they made up for in lightning.

“Over the course of the several hours the storms were in the area, there were well over 1,000 lightning flashes,” Turner said.

With such a dry fall, the worry about sparking a fire is real, Turner said.

“The concern is it does get a spark or an ember there and maybe it doesn’t do anything for a day or two but we get some bigger winds and it turns into a problem,” he said.

By 7:30 a.m., just over 2,200 Inland Power customers were without power; of those, 1,886 customers were in Stevens County.

Avista utilities had 1,355 customers without power. The outages were limited to Washington for the most part, with Avista and Kootenai Electric reporting no outages in North Idaho.

Early Tuesday, there also were reports of large hail, Turner said. Near Pomeroy, one person reported hail the size of a ping pong ball.

The storms were an updraft, and if some raindrops get pushed high enough to freeze, they can grow to large hailstones, Turner explained.

After the hail, Tuesday was forecast to be a “cloudy and showery” day, Turner said. The area ended up getting pelted with rain again in the afternoon, with pea-sized hail and winds up to 45 mph also predicted.

High temperatures are predicted to rise through the week, with the lower 90s expected over the weekend.

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