Weekend rung in with thunder and dust

The weekend’s weather included record heat, high winds, dust, rain, thunder and lightning.

Sunday's dust storm is seen in this photo from College Place.

Sunday's dust storm is seen in this photo from College Place. Photo courtesy of Laura Kyle

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WALLA WALLA — It was a weekend for weather.

Hot weather Saturday and Sunday broke or tied record highs for those dates, followed by strong thunder and dust storms Sunday afternoon and evening.

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An early Sunday evening dust storm sent gests scrambling for cover at the wedding reception of Tammy Walker and Barney Zinter at Winn Homestead in Weston. Tables and chairs were intentionally overturned to keep them from blowing away.

Sunday’s storm began moving through the Walla Walla area about 4:30 p.m. with sporadic, but often intense, rain squalls that drenched some areas while spattering only others. Despite downpours in some spots, the official amount was only trace precipitation as recorded at Walla Walla Regional Airport’s weather station.

Severe winds — arriving with a towering dust cloud — and lightning struck shortly before 7 p.m., tearing down tree limbs and causing scattered blackouts.

According to the National Weather Service today, the peak wind gust was 54 mph, although local weather spotters estimated some gusts as topping 60 mph, nearly equal to winds which struck the area during a Sept. 5 storm.

Power failures cut electricity to 1,580 Pacific Power customers in the Mill Creek area and another 770 customers served by the Bowman substation in Walla Walla. Utility spokesman Tom Gauntt said the power failure in the Mill Creek area started about 7 p.m. and electricity was restored at 9:15 p.m. and power was reported back on in the Bowman substation area by 11 p.m. Sunday.

According to the weather service, most of the storm activity was the result of thunderstorms that formed over Morrow and Gilliam counties in Oregon then moved north and east producing a gust front with winds around 70 mph. Wind damage was first reported in Morrow and Umatilla counties and then north into south central Washington as the storm moved northward.

Saturday’s high of 97 degrees set a record in Walla Walla, beating the previous high of 93 degrees for that date set in 1981. Sunday’s high of 98 degrees tied the record high set in 1979.

The forecast for tonight calls for partly cloudy skies with a low of 53 degrees. A chance of showers and thundershowers is again forecast for Tuesday and Tuesday night as a new system moves over the Central Washington area, with cooler temperatures through Wednesday.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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