A screengrab from a slow motion video taken on a cell phone during the lightning storm that came across the Okanagan on July 17. Courtesy of Steve Taylor

Cooler temps today, but no rain in forecast until August

Environment Canada does not have good news when it comes to fighting fires in the Central Okanagan.

Mother Nature has not been kind to the Okanagan-Similkameen this week and unfortunately there is little reprieve in sight.

While temperatures in the region have dropped significantly today, there are heavy winds still in the forecast and dry and hot conditions expected all next week.

A thunderstorm with promised rain showers is unlikely to hit south of Vernon and therefore will do little to calm the flames.

And Environment Canada does not predict any real rainfall activity for the rest of July.

Meteorologist Matt MacDonald says poor weather conditions made battling this week’s wildfires even harder on firefighters.

“A dry-cold front swept through the Southern Interior Tuesday night that was very active. We had upwards of 10,000 lightning strikes across the province and 2-3,000 over the Okanagan area,” he says.

“Unfortunately that lightning was what we call dry lightning, there was no rain or very little. Only a drop in a very dry bucket.”

The lightning sparked multiple fires in the region that were made worse by weather conditions on Wednesday and Thursday.

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“Yesterday we had very gusty and variable winds. In the Okanagan it started off with southerly winds and then midday they totally switched and reversed around to northerly winds,” says MacDonald.

“I can only image they would have had stationed firefighters on one flank and then as the winds shifted they are chasing their tails. It was a challenging day yesterday.”

The weather also left residents in the Okanagan waking up to very smoky skies Thursday. The one benefit of yesterday’s heavy winds is that air quality has improved greatly.

“The winds helped mix out the smoke, but unfortunately aggravated the wildfires.”

As of Friday morning, the weather is cooler but still windy.

“The temperatures dropped quite a bit. We are only headed for a high of about 24 C, whereas yesterday we were in to the thirties. A bit of help in that regard, but unfortunately a pretty breezy day again,” says MacDonald.

“Winds at the airport are already westerly at 30, gusting to 40 km/h. Those winds will prevail through today.

“Despite those cooler conditions, we are still dealing with those gusty winds.”

As for the forecast thunderstorms, MacDonald says they are coming with rain, but unlikely to soak anywhere south of Vernon.

“Kelowna is just at the southern boundary of where we are expecting storms to develop. We put it in the forecast for today, but we are expecting the thunderstorms to be confined northwards – Vernon and into the Shuswap,” explains MacDonald.

“Luckily, these thunderstorms, if they do materialize, will have some showers accompany them. Not a ton, but we could squeeze 3-5 mm out of them.”

As for the weekend, cloud coverage will roll in Saturday with a small chance of showers before things heat back up on Sunday.

“I would not get too excited for widespread rainfall, it will probably just be a spit at the most,” says MacDonald.

“The outlook is not all that great. Temperatures start to climb again on Sunday into the low thirties and then we are looking at hot, dry weather.”

MacDonald says Environment Canada sent a notice about to the BC Wildfire Service last week warning them the long-range forecast is not promising.

“We are in to a very prolonged stretch of dry weather. We have tried to find rain in the long-range forecast, but there is nothing in sight until well into the beginning of August.”

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