SPOKANE, Wash. — After the hottest days of the year in the Inland Northwest, the next headline is a wildfire threat from dry lightning with an incoming storm system moving into the Northwest over the weekend.
A Red Flag Warning has been issued for all of central and eastern Washington and North Idaho beginning Thursday at 4 p.m. through Saturday evening.
Scattered thunderstorms with abundant lightning bring the threat of wildfire starts across the region. Gusty winds are also possible near thunderstorms.
There will be isolated activity on Thursday evening, most likely near the Blue Mountains. Friday evening has a better chance for isolated to scattered thunderstorms with minimal rainfall.
Saturday is the most likely day for rain and storms but has a lower dry lightning threat.
A large low pressure area spinning in the Pacific Ocean, about 400 miles off the coast, stays in that vicinity through Friday. This will bring small pulses of energy over the Pacific Northwest and primarily the mountains.
On Saturday, that wave of energy pushes clear into Washington and Oregon. This results in far more widespread rainfall. Despite the higher chance for storms and lightning, more rainfall will limit the threat of starting wildfires compared to Thursday and Friday.
Computer models plot about 1/4 of an inch of rain for most of the Inland Northwest on Friday night through Saturday. Some mountains in northern Washington and Idaho could also see a full inch of rain or more.
Other active weather alerts in effect
A Heat Advisory had also been extended through Thursday in Spokane. High temperatures are not expected to fall in record territory, but they will be between 92 to 102 degrees for most the Inland Northwest.
An Air Quality Alert has also been extended through Thursday, pointing to reduction in air quality across the region due to smoke from the 25,000-acre Williams Flats Fire burning on the Colville Reservation.
Air quality is expected to fall between moderate and unhealthy throughout the day on Thursday before clearing up significantly by Friday.
Much cooler temperatures are moving in for the weekend, with highs in the low 80s on Saturday and the mid 70s on Sunday.