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Three Days of Daily Thunderstorms in Montana

Most people who live in heavily forested states understand something quite well regarding thunderstorms; they have a propensity of starting forest fires. Today marks the third day in a row that we’ve had thunderstorms that rumbled through Montana.

This year, though, at least right now, most people around here aren’t especially worried about it. The reason is fairly easy to understand. Prior to the three days of thunderstorms, we had three days of rain and cooler weather. Prior to that, the forests were just beginning to dry out, so the rain and cool temperatures reversed even that drying trend for a while. In fact, the fire danger was only at moderate and that was before the rain. Normally, by this time of year, we are in the early stages of fire season, but the conditions haven’t been that dry this year. At the rate it is going, fire season probably won’t begin here until mid-July.

That absolutely doesn’t mean that a lightning strike can’t start a forest fire. I’ve written about that part before. When lightning strikes a tree, it generates several thousand degrees F. in temperature. Any moisture that was in the tree is instantly vaporized and the pressure of the steam is easily enough to blow the tree apart, more efficiently than a stick of dynamite. The temperatures are high enough to set the wood and tree shards ablaze.

However, if the forest is relatively moist, the fire normally doesn’t spread very fast and it might not spread at all. If the forest is dry, it easily jumps from tree to tree and a forest fire is born.

There is no doubt at all that the Forest Service has people on alert and watching for smoke. In fact, I heard a fire spotter flying around a few minutes ago. These are airplanes that fly over the areas of strikes, looking for smoke or flames. However, so far, our forests are in great shape, thank God. 

Thus, even after three days of temperatures in the 80’s and afternoon thunderstorms, nobody is especially concerned. In 2017, it was a different matter, entirely. Fire season started early, so thunderstorms this late in June would have prompted people to be out watering their yards, bushes, trees, and rooves. This is preventative because an exploding tree can send embers miles away from where the tree was when it was struck by lightning. 

  • How often do you think of forest fires when a thunderstorm goes through?

    • Very often
    • Once in a while
    • Only when the temperatures have been high and the air has been dry
    • I rarely think about forest fires during thunderstorms
    • I never think about forest fires during thunderstorms


What do you think?

18 Points

Written by Rex Trulove


    • I’m afraid that is the nature of the jet stream. The next few days, it is supposed to be hot here, though. That might or might not mean thunderstorms. It isn’t unusual for thunder pods to form when it gets hot quickly through the day. It does worry me, but it could be a lot worse. It will be interesting to see what happens in July.

      • we’ve had hot for the past 5 days. Looking for something along spring-like weather.

        I do understand the concept of jet streams, but it is up to Montana to share some of the cold mountain air!!!!

        • This time of year, there usually isn’t much cold mountain air in Montana. Montana has hot, dry summers, usually. The cold mountain air is normally only experienced in the winter. In fact, our humidity in the summer tends to be extremely low; below 15%.

          Perhaps some of that Montana air will be sent your way, but I doubt that you’ll like it very much. 😀 If we do send our weather your way, you’ll probably experience thunderstorms, lots of lightning, high winds from microbursts, and possibly hail. Be careful what you ask for.

    • I know you were teasing, but I sort of wish that a little of the cool mountain air would flow through. I just got done weed-eating at the church and I’m overheated.

  1. Fortunately we aren’t in an area like that. California needs rain badly. I hope that whole forest-fire scenario doesn’t start up again.