One blaze in Mill Creek Wilderness will be staffed with smokejumpers Sunday
BEND, Ore. (KTVZ) – Intense thunderstorms rumbled through Central Oregon Saturday afternoon and evening, bringing hundreds of lightning strikes, thunder, hail and sustained downpours, knocking out power to thousands in Bend, flooding two underpasses and sending area fire crews scrambling to put out numerous new fires at small sizes.
The National Weather Service said the strong thunderstorm was reported around 5:30 p.m. near Deschutes River Woods, moving northeast at 10 mph, carrying winds possibly gusting to 50 mph and nickel-sized hail.
Another strong thunderstorm was reported shortly before 3 p.m. over the southwest part of the Warm Springs Indian Reservation, about 20 miles east of Detroit.
Though the lightning and its dramatic Fourth of July sky show was coupled with heavy rain over a wide area, firefighters responded to 10 new “single-tree starts” due to lightning by 6:30 p.m., mostly on the Deschutes National Forest and Prineville District BLM east of Bend.
Forest Service spokeswoman Kassidy Kern said crews were still responding to a couple of new fires around 8:30 p.m. and that one in the Mill Creek Wilderness on the Ochoco National Forest will be staffed with smokejumpers on Sunday.
All were kept small, but “more smokes will likely pop up tomorrow (Sunday) with increased heat” and more lightning in the forecast, Kern said.
More than 10,500 Pacific Power customers lost power shortly before 6 p.m. due to an apparent storm-related cause, utility spokesman Drew Hanson said. About 1,000 got power back an hour later, as crews patrolled lines, and most 8,000 were restored around 7 p.m., with the rest by 7:30 p.m.
For the second time in recent weeks, Bend’s Greenwood and Franklin Avenue underpasses flooded from the heavy rainfall and were closed for Public Works crews’ cleanup, reopening about 9 p.m., police Communications Manager Sharon Miller said.
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