Wildfire situation in Northwest may worsen this week

By Courtney Travis, AccuWeather senior meteorologist Updated Aug. 2, 2021 1:01 PM MDT

The weather pattern is set to change multiple times across the Northwest during the first week of August, bringing some opportunities for rain, but also threatening more bad news for the wildfires in the area.

For many across the Northwest, July was an especially dry month. Portland, Oregon, and Seattle each clocked in with only a trace of rainfall, compared to the normal around a half of an inch for the month.

Portions of the interior Northwest were fortunate enough to get a little bit of rainfall last week, as moisture from the North American Monsoon stretched northward into the region. This included cities like Bend, Oregon; Boise, Idaho, and Jackson, Wyoming, all picking up a couple of tenths of an inch of rainfall before the end of July.

While this is not enough rain to make any noticeable dent in the drought conditions across the region, for some cities, like Bend, Oregon, it was the only rain these locations received all month long.

As the week progresses, the hope for more rain is likely to dwindle.

“An area of high pressure is forecast to shift westward this week, bringing in drier air, and ushering out the monsoonal moisture for locations from Las Vegas to Boise,” said AccuWeather Meteorologist Rob Richards.

Any areas that were dampened by the rainfall will have time to dry back out again, increasing the available dry vegetation.

Areas from New Mexico and up through the Rocky Mountains are likely to still get a few thunderstorms, especially in the afternoon and evening hours through Tuesday.

By midweek, the monsoonal moisture will be suppressed southward to just New Mexico and Arizona. However, this does not mean that the rest of the interior West will be bone dry.

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At the same time that the monsoon moisture is pressed south, a storm is forecast to move into the region from the Pacific Wednesday and Thursday.

“While it isn’t likely that there will be a lot of moisture with this storm, there will still be some potentially dangerous conditions for the region,” warned Richards.

Any showers that develop with this storm are likely to be short-lived, once again not giving much in the way of drought relief. In addition, the lack of moisture will bring an increased chance of dry thunderstorms that would produce lightning strikes that could spark new wildfires.

“The windier conditions the come with this new storm could increase the challenge for firefighters in the area,” said Richards.

The introduction of stronger, and changeable, winds could have fires growing rapidly and more erratically than in a calmer weather pattern.

While the West, as a whole, has been overrun with wildfires and smoke, the situation has been particularly challenging in the Northwest. As of Monday morning, more than 75 active fires were burning across the northwestern U.S., including the Bootleg Fire in southern Oregon which has already swelled to more than 400,000 acres in size, making it the third-largest in Oregon’s history.

The above map shows many of the 89 active large wildfires across the western United States on Monday morning, August 2. (Photo/Inciweb)

The weather pattern is likely to change once again over the Pacific Northwest towards the end of the week.

A more impressive storm is forecast to push in from the Pacific as early as Friday, bringing with it a more impressive wave of moisture to portions of Washington.

“While this wet weather will be good for the fires in British Columbia, gusty winds and a lack of moisture could spell more trouble for the firefighting efforts elsewhere,” said AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Brett Anderson.

The wet weather with this late-week storm may finally bring rain to cities like Seattle and Portland, which have, as of Sunday, gone more than 45 consecutive days without measurable rain. (Click to Source)

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