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Lightning, thunder to continue

Scattered thunderstorms over the Sierra will become more numerous today and Saturday, with heavier showers that could cause local flooding, according to National Weather Service forecasters.

A red-flag alert is in effect for the western slopes for possible lightning-caused fires, but forecasters said Thursday that fuel conditions east of the Sierra crest aren’t severe enough to issue a warning for the high country.

Meteorologists with the National Weather Service in Reno said the spring showers are not part of a summer monsoon pattern.



“A weak storm system off southern California is helping drive the afternoon and evening thunderstorms, which will be largely confined to the Sierra mountains,” said Chris Smallcomb. “As we get into Friday and Saturday, the storms will get more wet. The thunderstorms will move fairly slow, and we could have some flooding.”

Meteorologist Chris Jordan attributed the slow-moving storms to the light winds associated with the high pressure system that dominates the west.



The fire expert in the Weather Service’s Reno office, Jordan said that dry grasses on the lower slopes of the Sierra’s western foothills increase the risk of wildfires west of the crest. But fuels in the higher country have not dried out sufficiently to create a critical danger of lightning-caused fire.

“The weather and fuels have a huge interaction,” Jordan said. “There will be a lot of lightning, but the storms will be on the wetter side, so this is not a critical fire weather pattern.”

Jordan said the Highway Fire that consumed 853 acres near Interstate 80 and the California-Nevada border did not spread further because brush and grass fuels had not been “cured” by warm, dry weather.

The thunderstorms are expected to peak on Saturday and taper off Sunday in the Sierra, moving east into the Great Basin, Jordan added.


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