By Megan Kehoe

The Bulletin

Lightning strikes, torrents of large hail and wind gusts of up to 50 mph could continue throughout the region into this evening as a rash of thunderstorms work their way across the area.

“We’ll continue to see additional thunderstorms move north into the east slopes of the Cascades Tuesday,” said Marilyn Lohmann, a forecaster with the National Weather Service in Pendleton. “Some of them could actually be fairly strong. In addition, they’ll produce quite a bit of lightning.”

A red flag warning was issued by the National Weather Service on Sunday for Central Oregon thunderstorms; it remains in effect until 11 p.m. As of Monday afternoon, about 3,000 lightning strikes were recorded in the Central Oregon area, said the Central Oregon Interagency Dispatch Center, with about 15 small fires being reported across the agency’s response region.

As of Monday afternoon, all of the fires sparked by the recent series of lightning strikes had been contained.

“We have local resources on all of them,” said Susie Heisey, fire information officer with the dispatch center. “Everything has been kept really small — to less than an acre.”

An expected large number of lightning strikes means those enjoying the outdoors should keep an eye to the skies and plan accordingly. For those kayaking, rafting or paddleboarding when a storm approaches, there’s only one thing to do to really stay safe.

“Just get off the water,” said Drew Oldfield, a manager at Tumalo Creek Kayak & Canoe. “You don’t have a whole lot of options at that point.”

Oldfield said no matter what type of craft, it’s best not to paddle too far from shore. Being close to the shoreline means access to a quick exit should the weather turn ugly. He also said that, should boaters become stranded by the storm, it’s important to be adequately prepared before heading out for a day on the water, meaning they should have a supply of drinking water, snacks, sunscreen and proper clothing, Oldfield also said that, in many cases, getting an early morning start on kayaking or boating will decrease your chances of being caught in a thunderstorm.

Lohmann said being aware of your surroundings and any weather alerts in the area is key to being safe.

“One good rule of thumb is if you can hear thunder, then you’re close enough to get struck by lightning,” Lohmann said. “Keep an eye to the weather. If you’re out in the open, get in a vehicle or find shelter.”

Lohmann also emphasized that when you get to shore, don’t take shelter under trees, as this can be just as dangerous as being out on open water.

“The goal is to make yourself smaller than your surroundings,” Lohmann said.

The thunderstorms are expected to let up this evening, but another low-pressure system is set to push across Central Oregon, bringing more rain Wednesday and beyond. Seasonal temperatures and clear skies are expected to return this weekend.

— Reporter: 541-383-0354,