Lightning likely in Medford area later today

Thunderstorms with lightning and little rain could sweep into the Rogue Valley this afternoon, prompting weather forecasters to warn of "critical fire weather conditions."

The National Weather Service office in Medford has issued a "red flag warning," upgrading concerns that dry vegetation, lightning, wind and heat could create the potential for fast-growing forest fires. The warning will be in effect from 3 until 11 p.m.

"The concern is for scattered thunderstorms over most of Jackson County," meteorologist Brett Lutz said.

He said the southeast portion of the county from Medford into the Siskiyous is most at risk of lightning storms with little to no rain, but areas along the Cascades, including Shady Cove and Butte Falls, also could be hit.

The potential for storms is the result of a low pressure system off the Northern California coast headed this way that will meet a moist air mass more than 10,000 feet aloft that coming up from the south and southeast, Lutz explained.

"It's a fairly common thunderstorm pattern for Medford," he said.

The storms will develop first in Siskiyou County, then move north and east into Oregon.

The high in Medford is predicted to hit 91 degrees, and smoke filling the air here serves as a reminder of the risk of fire. The smoke has drifted in from Northern California fires, many of which were sparked by early season lightning storms.

If no new fires are started nearby, a northwesterly flow expected the rest of this week should clear out the smoke, Lutz said.

The state Department of Environmental Quality lists the air quality index for Medford today as moderate, with the amount of very small particles on the rise. No air pollution advisories have been issued.

— Anita Burke

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