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Monsoonal Storms to Continue While Fires Rage

By Brian Lada, Meteorologist
August 5, 2014; 5:02 AM ET

A flow of moisture from the Southwest monsoon will allow for showers and thunderstorms to continue across the interior West heading into this week.

After heavy storms focused around the Desert Southwest over the weekend, the zone of heavy storms is expected to gradually shift northward over Nevada, Idaho and Utah.

Rain from these storms will not only be welcome by those in drought-stricken areas, but also by crews battling the dozens of wildfires across the West.

Flash flooding will be the biggest threat that these monsoon-driven thunderstorms bring as they have the potential to unload over an inch of rain in under an hour.

Gusty winds ahead of the storms may also kick up dust storms, reducing visibility to near zero and making for difficult travel.

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Hikers across the West should prepare for the thunderstorms as heavy rain can wash out trails and produce frequent lightning.

In a report by the National Park Service concerning trail conditions at the Rocky Mountain National Park, they tell hikers "due to recent flooding, expect to encounter missing foot bridges, uneven trail surfaces, unstable slopes, falling trees due to soil moisture, rutted trails, damaged water bars and steps, standing water, difficult water crossings, and missing directional signs."

Lightning is one of nature's deadliest weather phenomena. If you see lightning or hear thunder, you should seek shelter until the storm has passed.

While some storms will erupt along the Sierra Nevada Range, many of the storms are projected to avoid California.

This translates to little to no rain for crews battling the wildfires burning across the Golden State.

A majority of these fires are burning across the northern part of the state with the USDA Forest Service reporting nearly a dozen fires burning across northern California alone.

"Most all of the current fires are in the West and especially from northern California into the Northwest," said AccuWeather.com Western Weather Expert Ken Clark.

"In fact, this area has been very busy for the last month."

California Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr. issued an emergency proclamation for California on Saturday due to the effects of wildfires burning thousands of acres, destroying homes and damaging critical infrastructure.

This image of northern California was taken on Saturday by the MODIS instrument aboard the Aqua satellite. The red dots indicate the location of several wildfires with smoke from the fires clearly visible from space.

Clark warns that the worst of the western wildfires may be yet to come. "Some of the largest fires come from late September into early November when strong, hot and dry Santa Ana winds blow."

Not all of the wildfires are confined to California with fires also burning in Washington, Oregon and Idaho.

The Carlton Complex is one of the largest fires in the region, having burned more than 250,000 acres in Washington since lightning sparked the blaze on July 14, 2014.

Looking ahead to the second half of the week, the monsoonal moisture is forecast to become less abundant across the region resulting in less thunderstorm activity.

However, spotty thunderstorms may still develop during the afternoon hours across the interior West.

The views expressed are those of the author and not necessarily those of AccuWeather, Inc. or AccuWeather.com

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