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Siskiyou County bears brunt of Sunday lightning

The National Weather Service called for another round of lightning in Southern Oregon and Northern California today following a Sunday thunderstorm that peppered the region with hundreds of strikes.

The agency has issued a red flag warning for a wide swathe of Southern Oregon and Northern California, in effect from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Jackson, Josephine, Douglas, Siskiyou and Klamath counties are all included in the coverage area, according to a Weather Service bulletin.

“Lightning and high fire danger will likely result in new fire starts. Gusty thunderstorm winds could contribute to fire spread,” the bulletin reads. “Despite rainfall, initial attack resources could be overwhelmed and holdover fires are possible.”

Siskiyou County bore the brunt of the Southern Oregon-Northern California region’s overnight lightning, weathering 262 strikes out of the region’s 324. About 20 strikes hit Jackson County, too, with a handful of small local fires ignited by the bolts, state and federal forestry officials confirmed Monday. Several counties, including Coos and Douglas, skated through strike-free.

U.S. Forest Service crews responded to the Applegate Valley following reports of strikes in the area. At least one fire was confirmed in the Carberry Creek area west of Applegate Lake, agency public information officer Margueritte Hickman said. A 20-person hand crew was dispatched the blaze, estimated to be about 1/4 acre in size. An initial attack crew rappelled from a helicopter.

Oregon Department of Forestry crews had also been dispatched to an area off Obenchain Road near Butte Falls to snuff another lightning-sparked blaze, agency spokesman Brian Ballou said. That fire grew to about 1/3 acre. Another lightning strike reportedly sparked a tree fire in the Clark’s Creek area south of Lost Creek Lake, Ballou said.

Sunday temperatures climbed into the triple digits for parts of the Rogue Valley, with a high of 105 degrees recorded in Medford and 104 in Grants Pass. The mercury in Ashland reached 99 degrees. Medford’s scorcher didn’t break the daily temperature record, however. That crown still belongs to July 26, 1939, when the city’s high temperature reached 108 degrees, meteorologist Charles Smith said.

Nighttime didn’t offer much of a reprieve, the city’s overnight low only dropping to 74 degrees.

“That’s about 10 degrees warmer than what you’d usually see, if not warmer,” Smith said.

Unlike the daily high, that warm low temperature did set a new daily record. Previously, the warmest overnight low for July 27 was recorded in 1996, Smith said.

Another scorcher is in the forecast today, with a forecast high in the upper 90s for much of the Rogue Valley. Temperatures are expected to stay in the mid to low 90s the rest of the week.

Reach web editor Ryan Pfeil at 541-776-4468 or rpfeil@rosebudmedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @RyanPfeil.

A Sunday night lightning strike sizzles northeast of Medford. (Photo by Medford resident Nick Nelson)