Central Washington wildfire makes its own thunderstorm

Cedar Creek Thunderstorm July 30

OKANGOGAN CO., Wash. — Extreme wildfire activity has led to thunder and lightning over parts of Central Washington.

Starting at around 5 p.m. on Friday the GOES 17 weather satellite began to monitor lightning within clouds forming over the heat from the Cedar Creek Fire southwest of Winthrop. Thunder and lightning were also reported from eyewitnesses in the area. The electric blue colors in the satellite image below show lightning flashes being detected.

Cedar Creek Thunderstorm July 30

Temperatures near the fire lines reached the upper 90s on Friday while the mercury soared to 103 below in the Methow Valley. In addition, weather station data shows consistent wind gusts over 20 miles per hour beginning in the early afternoon around the fire. These conditions are a cocktail for extreme fire behavior.

Cedar Creek Thunderstorm July 30 Two

Cedar Creek Thunderstorm July 30 Three

Many times during this kind of fire activity, the intense rising heat will make a towering cumulus cloud directly above the fire. Give enough time to develop, these clouds can produce lightning and rain much like any other thunderstorm and are called pyrocumulonimbus.

Cedar Creek Thunderstorm July 30 Four

As of Friday morning, the Cedar Creek Fire had burned 36,922 acres and was only 11 percent contained. Over 600 firefighters are working to contain the blaze.

The prospect of rain and higher humidity around the Cascades starting Saturday night will be welcome news for crews on the Cedar Creek fire and other fires in the area. In the meantime more triple-digit heat is forecast on Saturday.