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July produces one record high temp

If hot and dry is what you crave, you couldn't do much better than July.

The seventh month of 2004 will be remembered for endless blue skies, abundant sunshine, warm nights and no rain ' just what we expect from midsummer in Southern Oregon.

People who planned their outdoor events in July to avoid rain were not disappointed. For the month, just a trace amount of rain fell at the National Weather Service station at the Medford airport.

Rogue Valley sun worshippers got more than their usual share of heat for the month. The average daily high temperature of 93.3 degrees was 3.8 degrees above normal, and the average daily temperature, 76.5 degrees, made July 2004 the third warmest on record in Medford.

Nights were unusually warm, too. July's average daily low of 59.7 degrees was 4.5 degrees above normal, the third warmest average monthly low in the 92 years that records have been kept in Medford by the National Weather Service.

— Despite all the heat, there was only one record-breaking temperature, 105 degrees on July 24, and just three days of triple-digit heat. That doesn't sound too bad until you add in 20 days of 90 and above for the month.

Summer's heat is most relentless during the last two weeks of July and the first two weeks of August. The daily record high temperatures between July 15 and Aug. 15 are almost all more than 105 degrees, and readings of 107 to 109 are all too common in the Weather Service's data book.

The region's hottest day ever, 115 degrees, fell on July 20, 1946, and the longest spell of sustained heat also occurred during this part of the year. On Aug. 7, 1981, the Medford airport thermometer climbed to 111 degrees. On Aug. 8, it crept up to 114; then it dipped to 111 again Aug. 9 before finally falling to only 110 on Aug. 10. Fires burned through forest land in the Applegate Valley that week, and a fire on Tin Pan Peak between Rogue River and Gold Hill mesmerized motorists on Interstate 5.

Summer's far from over at mid-August, but temperatures do begin to decline slowly from the peaks of late July, and record highs for each day begin to drop to 102 or 103 degrees.

Record-breaking heat like that of August 1981 often lasts for several days at a stretch when hot dry air settles over the region and blocks the flow of cool air off the Pacific Ocean.

Every year, there are 92 days between June — and Aug. 31. Fifty-five of the daily high-temperature records for June, July and August were set during 24 hot spells that lasted two or three consecutive days. Only one heat wave, in August 1981, dragged on for four straight days of record-breaking temperatures.

Such rain that does arrive in July almost always appears as localized thunderstorms. A big storm settled over Ashland and the Siskiyou Mountains on July 24 and hurled down more than 100 lightning bolts, but Medford's only rain for the month came a week earlier, on the 18th, when a few drops dotted dusty windshields.