If the current weather forecast holds, lightning and thunder could shake the skies over Southern Oregon intermittently through the rest of the week, with rainfall that could help clear out some of the smoke.
Low pressure in the atmosphere's upper levels is making for an increase in moisture in the clouds over Southern Oregon and northern California. Thunderstorms are likely Wednesday through Friday across the region, but could get started as early as tonight, which could lead to additional lightning-sparked fires, according to a special weather statement released today.
"One of the concerns we have for tonight is we'll have thunderstorms in the area, but they'll be more isolated," said National Weather Service meteorologist Mike Petrucelli. "But certainly, given that the fuels are as dry as they are, and that we're in high fire danger, all you really need is one strike."
That's a danger firefighters who continue to battle several wildland complexes across the region are aware of. Fire officials said daily updates from meteorologists on current weather conditions are part of the crews' regular morning briefings. The main focus is on fighting the fires that are already there, but crews are cognizant of the potential threat for more.
"Folks are never out there without observers and situational awareness," said Bureau of Land Management spokesman Joel Brumm. "(They're) alert to what's going on with fire operations as well as the weather."
Storms with lightning are expected to increase as the week continues. Forecasters predict the moisture will increase, too, though, meaning a better chance of snuffing any new fires before they roar to life.
"You'll still have the lightning threat, but you'll have some rain to come along with it," Petrucelli said. "It could produce some rainfall amounts. It's kind of hard to pinpoint exactly how much is going to come out there."
Weather officials reported that rainfall would also provide some smoke relief, as precipitation would help to thin out the layers that continue to smother the region. The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality's air quality index shows Medford's air today is unhealthy for sensitive groups because of fine particles in the smoke.
Gusty and erratic winds could accompany the storms. Weather officials also warned that heavy rainfall could result in flash floods in areas that have recently burned.
— Ryan Pfeil