Monday, August 3, 2009

Oregon Thunderstorms and Lightning Sparks Fires

The weather and heat warning for lightning storms turned out to be accurate: over the weekend there were 6458 recorded lightning strikes starting more than 77 fires. Most of the fires were contained to one acre or less. But the thunderstorms in Central Oregon are expected to continue through Tuesday night. A red flag warning for heat and fire danger will remain in effect at least until Tuesday night.

There are currently 5 major fires in Oregon, and 7 major fires in Washington. Northern California had several fires start in the Klamath Forest from lightning strikes. USFS says that they are currently holding with the equipment and personnel on hand as long as no additional major fires flare up.

But our question to you is this: if you live in a community near the forest and lightning strikes cause a major fire near you, are you prepared in the event of an emergency evacuation?

In the past, evacuations have been declared in as little as a few hours and if you do not have a plan and an evacuation kit prepared then you may not have time to get ready. In your evacuation kit you need to have extra medicines, copies of important documents, and some non-perishable food and drink items, as well as anything else you think you will need for at least 72 hours.

72 hour kit. I do, do you?

Red Flag Warning Extended to Tuesday, 5 August

Statement as of 2:49 PM PDT on August 03, 2009

... Red flag warning remains in effect until 5 PM PDT Tuesday...

A red flag warning remains in effect until 5 PM PDT Tuesday for zones 605..607..606 and 608.
This includes the southern part of The Mount Hood and the Willamette National forests.

An upper level low pressure system will remain off of the California coast through early
Wednesday... then will slowly move into northern California Thursday... and into southern Idaho
by Friday afternoon.

An unstable southeast to south flow aloft will bring the necessary ingredients into place for the
development of scattered thunderstorms across much of the Oregon Cascades... mainly south of
Mount Jefferson.

The combination of lightning and critically dry fuels will result in an elevated risk for multiple
ignitions. Any thunderstorms that do develop will initially produce little precipitation and a
lot of lightning... also these type of storms are capable of producing gusty winds. Storms should
progressively become more wet Tuesday and Wednesday. Thunderstorm threat will mostly end
later Wednesday night as the low moves farther away and onshore flow increases.

Precautionary/preparedness actions...

A red flag warning means that critical fire weather conditions are either occurring now...
or are expected.

Please advise the appropriate officials or fire crews in the field of this red flag warning.

Williams Creek Fire near Steamboat, Oregon

Last week FEMA released several articles about the dangers of wildfires. This weekend has proven that it can happen before you know it.

Last week the Williams Creek Fire started burning in the Umpqua National Forest, 3 miles west of the community of Steamboat. That fire has grown to more than 4500 acres by this morning and is only 20% contained. The rugged terrain and dry weather has made it difficult to fight the fire. With more than 1000 firefighters and six helicopters working on the fire, it has caused a series of closures and at least one evacuation.

* Highway 138 is closed between mileposts 29 and 39
* Rock Creek Rd and Canton Rd are closed
* Williams Creek, Bogus Creek, and Scaredman Creek campgrounds are closed
* North Umpqua Trail #1414 is closed from Fern Falls to the Motthead Trailhead
* Steamboat Inn on Highway 138 is evacuated, and residence protection is in place for 8 Moore Hill buildings

See the links for maps and pictures.