As of Thursday, August 13, 2015
OMAK The National Weather Service is predicting perfect fire-growth weather today and for part of the weekend with lightning, high heat and gusty winds already joining smoky conditions.
The service has issued several warnings and watches for Okanogan County, including a Red Flag Warning — meaning expected weather could lead to dangerous fire conditions.
“A surface thermal trough will continue to bring dry and unstable conditions to portions of Eastern Washington and North Idaho today,” meteorologists said, noting near record heat is predicted.
The warning calls for southwest to west winds from 10 to 15 mph, with gusts upward of 25 mph, and relative humidity between 9 and 23 percent.
Temperatures are expected to top out between 90 and 102 degrees in the valleys and the 80s in the mountains.
“Combined with dry fuels, these unstable conditions will result in the potential for very active fire behavior with convective columns and possible plume dominated fires today,” officials said.
The Red Flag Warning currently expires at 8 p.m. today; it covers about one-third of the state — nearly everything north of Connell and east of the Cascade Crest.
In a separate statement, the service issued an air quality alert due to drifting smoke.
“Elevated concentrations of wildfire smoke in the air from local and regional fires is expected to continue into Friday,” officials said. “Air quality is currently in the moderate to unhealthy for sensitive groups category in many locations impacted by this wildfire smoke in Eastern Washington and North Idaho.”
Officials encourage those with sensitivity to smoke to avoid prolonged or heavy exertion and limit time outdoors.
As if fire conditions and smoke were not enough, meteorologists are also calling for a possible threat of thunderstorms, and flash flooding.
“Isolated thunderstorms are possible late this afternoon and tonight,” Weather Service officials said. “Any lightning from these storms could result in new wildfire starts.”
Due to a low-pressure cold front expected to roll through the region Friday, meteorologists say thunderstorms can also be expected tomorrow night.
“This will increase the potential for flash flooding and debris flows for areas in and near recent burn scars through Friday evening,” officials said. “Other potential hazards with thunderstorms will include gusty winds and new fire starts from lightning strikes.”