2,500 lightning strikes overnight

2,500 lightning strikes overnight

3 July 2008

published by seattlepi.nwsource.com

USA — Thunderstorms over Western Washington pounded the region with an estimated 2,500 lightning strikes from Wednesday afternoon through Thursday morning, meteorologists with the National Weather Service in Seattle said.

The thunderstorms were predicted to continue Thursday with a fresh round of lightning and thunder in the later afternoon and early evening, before ending.

However, people traveling east into the Cascades on camping trips should prepare for thunder and lightning storms into Friday morning.

July Fourth, meanwhile, will be damp and cloudy with a chance of showers, although with a little luck there could be a break in the evening around fireworks time, a National Weather Service spokesman said late Thursday. The high should be around 70 degrees.

For those heading out of town for the weekend to the coast, an offshore front is expected to bring more dampness, clouds and rain, with temperatures 10 degrees to 15 degrees lower than Seattle’s.

The early display of Mother Nature’s fireworks before the July Fourth weekend was believed responsible for six power outages Seattle City Light reported, including one in the University District that lasted from 8:30 p.m. Wednesday to 2:30 a.m. Thursday.

“Quite a night,” City Light spokesman Mike Eagan said.

“It is a lot, especially by our standards up here,” meteorologist Andy Haner said of the lightning strikes reported to the National Lightning Detection Network.

A seventh outage was reported affecting customers in Capitol Hill early Thursday. The Department of Transportation, meanwhile, had its hands full restoring power losses to blacked-out traffic signals around the area, the most recent at East Madison Street from 19th to 23rd avenues early Thursday.

As the three-day weekend progresses, however, the weather should clear up with temperatures staying in the mid-70s through Sunday and showers giving way to partly sunny skies in Seattle.

The rain showers won’t be enough to dampen the fire threat posed by fireworks, officials said. And people should properly plan before discharging fireworks in areas where they aren’t outright banned, as they are in Seattle.

“Even though we’re getting this rain, the sun will dry out that tall grass that we’re seeing is already dry,” said Dave Nelson, with King County Fire District 20.

Nelson said fire crews have already seen some fireworks-related fires, mostly brush fires, and are expecting a busy weekend.

“We’ll still probably see fires and injuries through the weekend,” Nelson said.

Seattle Fire Department spokeswoman Helen Fitzpatrick reminded residents to call 911 for emergencies only.

Last year, Seattle fire crews received 487 calls for service on the Fourth of July, almost double a routine day. The fire department plans to beef up its crews and add an extra dispatcher to handle the expected load.

“It’s still going to be a really, really busy day for the dispatchers and firefighters,” she said.

While Nelson and other firefighters urge common sense and vigilance against fire dangers on land, other eyes will be policing the waterways.

The Coast Guard has a message for maritime partygoers for the Fourth of July in Seattle: Be prudent, wear a lifejacket and skip the booze until the boat ride is over.

Nationwide, the holiday is the year’s busiest and deadliest for boaters, with alcohol the leading factor in 21 percent of fatal boating accidents, the agency says.

In Seattle, boaters will see more Coast Guard and law enforcement vessels on the water, with helicopters and larger cutters ready to be dispatched when boaters find trouble. The Seattle Harbor Patrol, meanwhile, began a 24-hour around-the-clock coverage starting Thursday through late evening of July Fourth.

“We step it up a little bit more, especially when there are major events,” said Coast Guard spokesman Chief Petty Officer Paul Roszkowski.

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