Thunderstorms, 705 lightning strikes hammer Western Wash.

Thunderstorms, 705 lightning strikes hammer Western Wash.
Thunderstorms light up Puget Sound area skies (Photo by Rachel Haight)
SEATTLE - Hours after the Puget Sound region set high temperature records on Monday, thunderstorms developed overnight and are the opening salvo of what now promises to be a stormy 36-hour period across Western Washington.

Reports of frequent lightning and rain were scattered across southern and central King County overnight and storms were expected to continue across the region overnight into Tuesday. Individual thunderstorms may contain heavy rain and hail aside from lightning.

The National Weather Service says the state was hit by 705 lightning strikes in a 24-hour period through Tuesday morning, mostly in Western Washington.

Aside from the usual dangers presented by lightning, with the recent dry weather, there is an increased risk of wildfires, even in Western Washington. One new wildfire already was reported Tuesday near Mount Rainier from a lightning strike.

The National Weather Service has issued a red flag warning for wildfire danger to most of Western Washington, including the Seattle area, where such warnings are rare. Forecasters are watching for an abundance of lightning strikes across our region and worry they could spark wildfires.

In addition, the state Department of Natural Resources has taken the step of banning statewide all outdoor burning on DNR-protected lands, with no exceptions.



Monday's thunderstorms come on the heels of the hottest day in nearly four years for Seattle. Sea-Tac Airport reached 96 degrees, breaking the daily record of 95 and making it the hottest day since a 96 degree day on Aug. 15, 2010. Some spots south of Seattle reached triple digits, with Shelton reaching 101 degrees and Kelso reaching 102.

The thunderstorm chances hold through Tuesday as unstable air remains over the region. Those with outdoor plans and sporting events/practices for Tuesday need to keep a sharp eye on the skies and should have someone monitor radars and forecasts on a smartphone for any approaching storms. As the National Weather Service likes to say: "When thunder roars, head indoors."

As the thunderstorms form in the upper levels, a cooling marine breeze will develop along the surface Monday night so Tuesday will be somewhat cooler and cloudier, with highs dropping to about 80. Forecast models are also indicating we could now see a period of steady moderate-to-heavy rains Tuesday night into early Wednesday as part of that trough moves through with showers decreasing during the day Wednesday but a shower chance lingering into Thursday as highs drop back into the 70s. By the end of the week, we finally get back to some semblance of Seattle summer normal with morning clouds and afternoon sun with highs in the upper 70s to low 80s. It will be well deserved.

Wildfire danger extends to Eastern Washington

The wildfire danger extends to Eastern Washington as well with thunderstorms likely there starting late Monday night with thunderstorm chances lingering through early Friday. Some of the storms there could be quite strong with gusty winds and hail and Red Flag Warnings are in effect for much of Central Washington as well, including the recent areas in north-central Washington that suffered massive wildfires. It's hot and dry there Monday, with the increasing thunderstorm threat through the week.

And to top it off, the winds will kick up mid-week as Western Washington cools off and those marine breezes shoot through the Cascade gaps into Central Washington. As we saw in mid-July when Seattle's last heat event broke, Central Washington was buffeted with several hours of 35-45 mph wind gusts. Firefighters could really have their hands full if new wildfires develop this week.

Scott will be providing frequent updates on Twitter as thunderstorms form and move across the region Monday night and Tuesday. You can follow him @ScottSKOMO.