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Thunderstorms expected to peak Thursday

 Posted: 11:20 AM August 21, 2013

Thunder clouds and rain are expected to roll into Southern Oregon today and Thursday, putting meteorologists on the alert for lightning-sparked fires and potential flooding in scorched forestlands.

National Weather Service officials said the soils burned by area wildfires over the past month can fuse together, making water absorption into the ground difficult.

"It depends on the composition of the soil and how badly it was burned," said meteorologist Jay Stockton. "The rain just rushes off quickly. It increases the chances of things like mud slides and debris flows."

A red flag warning, meaning weather conditions could contribute to additional wildfires, will be in effect from 11 a.m. today through 8 p.m. Thursday.

Stockton added the rain is expected to fall in spots across the region from Siskiyou County north to Douglas County, so it's not yet known if burned areas will be affected. Weather officials also will be keeping an eye out for lightning strikes that could spark additional wildfires.

"We are going to get thunderstorms. That's pretty much a given," Stockton said.

Activity is expected to peak Thursday, when a low pressure front separated from the jet stream is expected to move into the region.

Fire officials at the Big Windy Fire near the Rogue River said the prospect of potential flash floods isn't a concern at this point. Meteorologists on site have said the fire is right on the edge of the system.

"We could get any parts of that, but that's not something (we) think is highly likely," said Howard Hunter, public information officer at the Big Windy Fire. "We're on top of the ridges, we're not on any lower swales. We're more worried about dry lightning."

The Big Windy Complex remains at 20 percent containment, with close to 23,000 acres burned. Crews continue to draw fire lines and do burnout work on about six miles of the containment's west flank while keeping flames close to the Rogue River in check. A pickup in winds that could fuel the activity remains a concern. Crews still have an estimated containment date of Sept. 1.

— Ryan Pfeil

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