Weekend storms deliver thousands of lightning strikes to western Montana

(KPAX) Some Western Montanans reported hail larger than an inch thick on Saturday afternoon, and those storms also carried lightning along with them.

MTN News spoke with National Weather Service meteorologist Ryan Leach about these storms — some of which illuminated the dark skies early Sunday.

“We’ve had a lot of thunderstorms move through the area in the last 36 hours. We’ve had about 300 lightning strikes in the Missoula and Bitterroot valleys in that time period,” Leach said.

“Upwards of 400 in Flathead and the Mission valleys. And if you look at southwest Montana — from the Big Hole Valley down to Dillon … that area, we’ve had 1,100 lightning strikes in the last 36 hours roughly,” he added.

Those numbers are all cloud-to-ground lightning strikes, according to Leach, who has worked for the Weather Service for over 10 years. He says in that time, this weekend’s lightning numbers are a bit higher than we have seen in the recent past.

Even though lightning starts the bulk of western Montana’s summertime wildfires, the region may have some room to breathe for now.

“It’s actually been several weeks now where we’ve had our dew points, which is the temperature at which dew will form, have been in the 40- and 50-degree range, and that’s the longest that I can remember in probably the last 10 years that we’ve had dew points that high and as a result it’s been very humid,” said Leach.

That moisture will keep plants from drying out, making it less likely for a lightning strike to start a fire. Click here for more information on the conditions.