A tale of two coasts: Heat in the west and floods in the east

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It’s a tale of two coasts for July. In the far west, including North Idaho, it’s been extremely hot. In fact, readings will likely be near the 100-degree mark through Tuesday. However, across the Mid-Atlantic and northeastern portions of the country, flooding rains have been reported.

Here in Coeur d’Alene, we’ve had 14 days with temperatures at or above 90 degrees. As of Saturday, the hottest day so far in July was 96 degrees, which occurred on the 17th. But, it’s quite possible we’ll be higher either today or Tuesday. Our first day in the 90s occurred on the 5th with a high of 92 degrees. Cliff and I believe that we will likely see around 20 days in Coeur d’Alene with readings in the 90s. The normal is about 15 days.

Last year, we had 32 days with highs at or above 90 degrees. The first one we had in 2017 occurred on May 30 with a high of 90 degrees. There were only two days in June with readings in the 90s. July and August were hot and dry months. July had 13 days while August reported 15 days with highs at or above the 90-degree mark. The final day with a high temperature in the 90s in Coeur d’Alene was Sept. 3, 2017.

Despite a relatively mild to warm start to July, the recent heatwave has pushed average temperatures for this month to above normal levels. As of the last weekend, Cliff tells me that July’s average reading is about 3.5 degrees above normal.

For many stations in the West, this will likely be one of the hottest summer seasons in recorded history. High temperatures have been dangerously high, especially in the desert regions. On Tuesday, July 24, California’s Death Valley hit a record high for the date of 127 degrees. The old record was 126 degrees set back in 1916. By the way, Death Valley’s highest temperature ever recorded was 134 degrees, the highest official world temperature. Las Vegas reached a whopping 112 degrees on Tuesday and it was 121 degrees in Palm Springs.

August will likely start off with very warm temperatures across the Inland Northwest. However, there are indications that we’ll start to see an increase in moisture toward the middle to the end of next week. It’s been extremely dry this month as only 0.04 inches of rain fell. Last year, Cliff measured a puny 0.03 inches, compared to a normal of 0.92 inches.

With the prolonged heat and dryness in the western states, wildfires have been raging across the region. After a long battle, firefighters were finally getting a handle of the big Substation Fire near The Dalles in Oregon.

According to the National Interagency Fire Center, there are nearly 90 active large fires burning across the country. This figure does not include individual small fires. Since Jan. 1, there have been nearly 37,000 fires that has consumed close to 4 million acres. This is just over 10 percent higher than the average since 2008. Last year, from Jan. 1 through July 28, there were about 36,500 fires that consumed approximately 5.2 million acres. Millions of dollars have already been spent battling these blazes.

Most of the fires as of late July are in Oregon, as the state is reporting 15 blazes. Idaho has 11, with most in the southern part of the state. Alaska currently has 14 large wildfires. Colorado has 9 wildfires and California is reporting 7 large blazes. As of late last week, Washington is reporting one blaze.

One of the fires in California, the 38,000-acre Ferguson Fire, has been threatening the state’s pristine Yosemite Valley. Tourists to the region have been evacuated as the park has been closed. This is the largest closing of Yosemite National Park in nearly 30 years.

In this pattern of wide weather “extremes,” where you have drought on one side, you’ll have floods on the other. Heavy rainfall earlier this month has been reported in the Mid-Atlantic and northeastern portions of the country. Baltimore, Md., has now seen its wettest July in history as more than a foot of rain has fallen. One of the highest rainfall totals was reported in a town in Maryland called Dunkirk. As of late last week, over 16.5 inches of rain has fallen, leading to widespread flooding. Unfortunately, more heavy rainfall is expected across this part of the country this week as well.

Early August still looks very warm with dry conditions across much of North Idaho. However, there may be a few isolated afternoon and evening showers or a thunderstorm over the mountains. The middle to the end of August does look like we’ll see a better chance of showers and thunderstorms in the lower elevations. The average precipitation for next month in Coeur d’Alene is 1.23 inches. Last year, we only had 0.07 inches.

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Contact Randy Mann at randy@longrangeweather.com.

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