Tracking lightning, reflecting on storm that sparked dozens of fires throughout southern Oregon

MEDFORD, Ore. — On July 15, 2018, more than 3,000 lightning strikes hit southern Oregon, which started more than 120 wildfires.

Two of the largest, the Klondike Fire and Taylor Creek Fire, scorched thousands of acres which filled the Rogue Valley with smoke for much of the summer.

“We went from very few lightning strikes the day prior on the 14th to a lot of lightning,” Shad Keene, Senior Meteorologist with the National Weather Service, said.

Keene has been comparing last year’s lightning strikes to this year.

“We had a few 500 strike events earlier in the fire season and nothing really right now compared to last year,” Keene said.

He said last year at this time, vegetation was significantly dryer than it is now.

“We were under more significant drought last year at this time, and again remember we had 100 degree plus temperatures for multiple days in a row before that lightning arrived so conditions were hotter and dryer last year at this time then they are right now.”

The National Weather Service said while we should be safe from storms this coming week, an increase in lightning is expected in August.

“August 6th through 12th that’s when you get your most lightning,” Keene said.

He said lighting activity typically increases during that time period based on a 30-year average of lightning strikes hitting in southern Oregon.

“We’re very hopeful the National Weather Service here in Medford that we don’t have that kind of lightning outbreak that we had last year but if we do we foresee that happening, we’re in very close coordination with partner agencies,” Keene said.


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