Spectacular storm breaks records, and plans

Thunder and lightning lit up the night sky Friday night.

Gabor Gardonyi
Thunder and lightning lit up the night sky Friday night.

Summer is a season long awaited by many Hood River residents. After months of winter rains and a spring spotted with intermittent showers, summertime is as dry as it gets. With chances of precipitation extremely low for the months of July and August, one can usually skip checking the forecast and not fear getting caught in the rain.

However, last weekend proved that’s not always the case. Hood River County and surrounding areas were hit by not just one thunderstorm, but two thunderstorms last weekend. The National Weather Service first issued a severe thunderstorm warning Friday evening, advising people to seek shelter from a storm that was heading northwest from the Lost Lake area and was “capable of producing quarter-size hail and damaging winds in excess of 60 m.p.h.”

The storm rolled into the Hood River area just after 7 p.m., bringing with it high winds, thunder, lightning, and rain. Some people who were enjoying a nice dinner in the outdoor seating area of La Taqueria on the Heights scurried inside with plates of tacos and tortas as the heavens opened up. Others who deigned to dine al fresco — or who weren’t quick enough to grab a seat inside — were treated to a wet dinner.

Across the street at Ovino, which was hosting a grand opening for a new beer and wine garden, guests huddled under tents and the building’s overhang in order to escape the unkind elements. As the storm passed to the north, those who looked to the east were treated briefly to a brilliant double rainbow as the sun went down behind the Cascades.

A significantly less severe thunderstorm also passed through Hood River on Saturday at around 5 p.m., but the sky was menacing enough to force the postponement of the annual King of the Hook windsurfing competition, which has been tentatively rescheduled to Saturday, Aug. 24.

Up at Lost Lake Campground and Resort, Trent Weseman, general manager for the resort, said despite some “pretty good showers,” a Ben Bonham concert and a salmon feed scheduled for Friday and Saturday, respectively, went on as planned. He did, however, note that the storm “did affect business some.”

“The retail was down a little bit,” he explained. “People weren’t out and about on the lake as much.”

Thankfully, Hood River Fire and EMS reported that no fires were caused by the numerous bolts of lightning that struck the Hood River Valley and uplands Friday and Saturday evenings.

The fire-free weekend may have been made possible in part by the precipitation the thunderstorms brought. According to Larry Spellman, who operates the Hood River Weather website, both storms were enough to break the days’ previous precipitation records. Spellman said according to the HOXO weather station, located near the Oregon State University Extension facility on Experiment Station Drive, Hood River received .08 inches of rain Aug. 9, which trounced the .03-inch record originally set in 1989. Even more impressive was the .01-inch precipitation tally of Aug. 10, which also, believe it or not, set the record for most rainfall ever received for that day. Spellman said that according to the OSU weather records, which go back to 1928, there has never been measurable precipitation on Aug. 10 and he noted that “it was the only calendar day of the year that had never received rain.” Also, the .09 inches of precipitation produced by the two storms in two days has already met the historic average for total precipitation received in the month of August.

The weekend storms bring the total summer thunderstorm tally for the Hood River area to three, with the first storm occurring in mid June, which was partly responsible for pronounced splitting that harmed the incoming Bing cherry harvest. Spellman said the storms are caused by weather patterns off the coast, which push cool air down the Gorge which collides with warm air in the east.

While Spellman estimated that the Hood River Valley averages “three or less” thunderstorms each summer, he can’t remember the last time there were thunderstorms for two consecutive days.

“For one thing, thunderstorms are very rare in Hood River,” he said, “but the chance of having two thunderstorms back-to-back is pretty unusual.”

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