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Lightning, scattered rain predicted today

 Posted: 2:00 AM August 09, 2013

Weather officials are predicting more of the same — lightning and scattered rainfall — around the Rogue Valley today.

A National Weather Service "red flag warning," which means the conditions are right for lightning strikes to start wildfires, remains in effect until 11 p.m. today.

"We're kind of expecting a repeat scenario," said meteorologist Mike Petrucelli.

Few strikes were recorded Wednesday night into Thursday afternoon across Jackson County, a significant drop from the hundreds reported Tuesday and early Wednesday. The decrease was welcome news to wildland fire crews, who reported just one new fire Thursday morning.

The Tuesday night strikes sparked numerous small fires in northeastern Jackson County between Prospect and Trail. One of the blazes roared to life off Cobleigh Road outside Butte Falls early Wednesday, growing to four acres before Oregon Department of Forestry and Butte Falls fire crews extinguished it. The rest did not exceed an acre, with most not growing past a half-acre.

"Everything's pretty much out," ODF spokesman Brian Ballou said of the new fires on Thursday.

The potential for lightning continues, but meteorologists said it will temper during the evening hours. Chances for additional thunderstorms continue into Saturday night.

The storms also could bring more smoke-diluting rainfall today and into the weekend, with the greatest amounts expected to fall in higher elevations. Forecasters said the precipitation will be scattered across the region.

"It's still going to be, to some degree, hit and miss," said meteorologist Brett Lutz. "Where you get it, you're likely to get a pretty good dousing."

A predicted pickup in winds could assist in thinning the smoke further.

A brief torrent of rain and some hail hit Phoenix, south Medford and parts of the Applegate Wednesday, with amounts exceeding a quarter of an inch.

Other than that, most of the region stayed relatively dry, with no measurable amounts recorded near Grants Pass or where the Big Windy Complex continued to rage near the Rogue River.

"That was more the exception," Petrucelli said of the rains.

Air quality officials said Wednesday's brief cloudbursts didn't have much of an effect on Rogue Valley air quality, which has suffered because of the influx of smoke from nearby wildfires. Medford banked its third day in a row of "unhealthy" air quality Thursday, according to Oregon Department of Environmental Quality data.

"It looks like the levels fluctuated a little bit," DEQ natural resource specialist Byron Peterson said. "It looked like it cleared up a little bit and then it socked right back in."

Reach Mail Tribune reporter Ryan Pfeil at 541-776-4468 or rpfeil@mailtribune.com.


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