Dry July could mean a fiery August

2014-07-31T06:23:00Z 2014-07-31T09:30:07Z Dry July could mean a fiery AugustBy CHRIS CIOFFI ccioffi@billingsgazette.com The Billings Gazette

July 2014 will go down in the record books as a dry month in Billings, and relief might not be headed this way any time soon. 

The Magic City only saw about .34 inches of rain fall during July, said Todd Chambers, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service office in Billings. The average is about 1.28.

"We're just a little under an inch below what we should have been," he said.

If Billings has been parched in July, Miles City has been downright bone-dry. A mere .09 inches of rain has fallen in July. The average is 1.59 inches. 

But even with the deficit, above-average winter and spring moisture has left much of eastern Montana with about an extra inch of water on the year, he said. That led to prolific plant growth on the prairie. 

"The grasses got big," Chambers said. "There's a lot of grass fuel out there that's available to burn."

As August begins Friday, Billings will continue to see temperatures hovering around 88 - the average for this time of year - and afternoon showers or thunderstorms will be back in the forecast.

That could bring more harm than good if lightning strikes dry grasses, he said.

Skies will be sunny and temperatures should peak near 92 Thursday. A slight morning breeze will become calm by afternoon.

There is a 20 percent chance for afternoon showers and thunderstorms Thursday evening. Skies will be partly cloudy and lows will fall to 60. 

A repeat of Thursday is expected Friday. Skies will be sunny and temperatures will hover near 92. A light 5 to 9 mph breeze will die off by afternoon.

No chance of showers or thunderstorms is expected Friday night, but skies will be cloudy and lows will fall to 61.

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