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Storms bring thousands of lightning strikes across Western MT

Posted at 7:46 PM, Jul 14, 2019
and last updated 2019-07-14 21:49:23-04

MISSOULA – Some people saw hail pieces larger than an inch thick on Saturday afternoon and those storms also carried lightning and thunder along with them.

MTN News spoke with National Weather Service meteorologist Ryan Leach about these storms — some of which illuminated the normally dark skies early Sunday.

“We’ve had a lot of thunderstorms move through the area in the last 36 hours. We’ve had about 300 lightning strikes in the Missoula and Bitterroot Valley in that time period,” Leach said.

“Upwards of 400 in Flathead and the Mission Valley. And if you look at southwest Montana — from the Big Hole Valley down to DIllion…that area, we’ve had 1,100 lightning strikes in the last 36 hours roughly,” he added.

Those numbers are all cloud to ground lightning strikes, according to Leach whose worked for the NWS for over 10 years. He says in that time, this weekend’s lightning numbers are a bit higher than we have seen in the recent past.

Even though lightning is known to start fires we may have some room to breathe for now.

“It’s actually been several weeks now where we’ve had our dew points, which is the temperature which dew will form, has been in the 40s and 50 degree range and that’s the longest that I can remember in the probably the last ten years that we’ve had dew points that high and as a result it’s been very humid,” said Leach.

That moisture will keep plants from drying out, making it less likely for a lightning strike to start a fire. Click here for more information on these conditions.