Severe thunderstorm pummels Tri-Cities

Tri-City HeraldSeptember 5, 2013 

A severe thunderstorm that started in central Oregon swept over the Tri-Cities on Thursday evening, causing lightning, fires, high winds and heavy rain.

Multiple fires, sparked by lightning from the storm, burned in Finley, Badger Canyon and along Highway 395, officials said. Crews were able to control the fires and the heavy rain helped put them out.

High winds were reported throughout the Tri-Cities, with peak winds of 45 mph recorded at 6 p.m. at the airport in Pasco, the National Weather Service in Pendleton said. Small hail storms also were reported around the region.

Police officers in Kennewick reported traffic problems because of water on the roads and malfunctioning traffic lights.

The Pasco High School varsity football game against West Valley at Edgar Brown Stadium in Pasco was postponed because of the thunderstorm and an open house at Kamiakin High School was canceled.

The weather service issued a severe thunderstorm warning and flash flood warning Thursday night but both were lifted by 9 p.m. A red flag warning for fires throughout Eastern Washington also was issued.

The line of thunderstorms at one point extended seven miles southeast of Pasco to 25 miles east of Walla Walla, the weather service said.

The weather service’s Doppler radar indicated some weak rotations within Thursday night’s storm and said there was a possibility a tornado could form. However, no tornados were reported and no warning was issued for the Tri-Cities.

Tornado warnings were issued Thursday afternoon for east central Morrow County and west central Umatilla County in northeast Oregon but none was reported.

On the west side of the state a motorcyclist riding on Interstate 5 survived a lightning strike while riding through Chehalis on Thursday morning, the Associated Press reported.

The 59-year-old Tenino man was treated locally for burns to his ears, then taken to a Seattle hospital where he was reported in satisfactory condition, the Associated Press said.

“It is amazing he is alive, walking, talking and didn’t crash his motorcycle,” Chehalis firefighter Steve Emrich told the Chronicle of Centralia. “It was basically a direct hit right through the helmet.”

The man did not remember the lightning strike, Emrich said.

Heavy, steady rain was forecast for Western Washington into this morning.

The weather service also cautioned that the rain could mean flooding in widespread areas after a dry summer.

In Eastern Washington, areas of particular concern were those burned by summer wildfires. Those areas are susceptible to flash floods, debris flows and mudslides.

The weather service expects the weather in the Tri-Cities to clear up in the next few days.

There is a 50 percent chance of showers today, though officials do not expect more severe thunderstorms. The forecast for the weekend is a 20 percent chance of rain Saturday and highs near 81 degrees Sunday.

-- Tyler Richardson: 582-1556; trichardson@tricityherald.com; Twitter: @Ty_richardson

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