Lightning Storm
© Cisco Wilkinson
Cisco Wilkinson of west Pasco took this photo at 4 a.m. Saturday. “It was so bright, I was temporarily blinded,” Wilkinson said. “It looks like it’s daytime.”
There were a lot of tired people in the Tri-Cities on Saturday after an early morning electrical storm rattled homes and flashed bright lights through windows.

The system that led to a severe thunderstorm warning from the National Weather Service also cooled down the Mid-Columbia after a string of 100-plus degree days.

The light show and downpour didn't appear to cause any significant damage, with police and fire officials surprised at how few calls were received.

However, it might not be over, with the forecast calling for a slight chance of thunderstorms through the rest of the week as the temperatures heat up again.

Those storms continue to bring the threat of lightning sparking wildfires.

Today's thermometer should top out around 87 degrees before moving into breezy conditions for the evening, said Rob Brooks, a hydrometeorological technician with the National Weather Service in Pendleton.

The high Saturday was 91 at the Tri-Cities Airport in Pasco with the overnight low expected to drop to 65, both fairly average temperatures for mid-July, Brooks told the Herald.

But the thunder and lightning that moved through the area earlier Saturday seemed anything but normal to the dozens of residents who took to social media to describe the experience.

Some referred to it on the Tri-City Herald's Facebook page as "the best storm ever" or the "most intense" they've experienced in the Northwest. People awakened by the loud booms reported staying up through the early morning hours because they were fascinated by Mother Nature's spectacular display, or simply realized that attempts at sleep were futile.

A severe weather alert issued at 2:37 a.m. said two storms were located six miles southwest of Kennewick and moving north at 30 mph. Within minutes, the storms moved over the Tri-Cities and seemed to hunker down for almost three hours, with cloud-to-cloud lightning that often was so bright it appeared to be daytime.

The National Weather Service's warning described it as "a dangerous storm," and told residents to prepare for damaging winds, destructive hail and deadly lightning that could strike the ground. People were instructed to seek shelter inside a strong building, but away from windows.

The weather service took two calls from the public reporting hail the size of a quarter in Kennewick. Public reports of wind speeds in Kennewick ranged from gusts of 35 to 40 mph to gusts up to 60 mph that drove the rain and hail sideways.

"I'm sure it's been a blast for people to watch the lightning," Brooks said.

The weather service had been expecting the storms to form for a couple of days because of instability with a low-pressure system and warm temperatures, Brooks said.

The Pasco airport on Saturday only recorded a trace of rain, while Kennewick showed 0.13 inch, a "decent" amount for the city, he said. Hermiston had reports of a quarter-inch and even a half-inch in parts.

Deputy Chief Mike Harris with Benton Fire District 1 said the rural Kennewick department did not receive a single call for a fire caused by a lightning strike.

"Out of the 320 square miles we protect we had 320 square miles of rain," Harris said. "... I think that might have quenched any fire that might have started from the lightning."

Hours before the system hit the Tri-Cities, the Walla Walla Symphony's Friday night performance of Midsummer Night Music was stopped for a moment because of heavy rain on the tin roof at the Power House Theatre. It was the conductor's choice to pause because he wanted the audience to be able to appreciate the music, symphony officials said.