BEND, Ore. - A powerful series of thunderstorms rumbling north along the Cascades crest sparked a spectacular light show with thousands of lightning bolts Thursday night, also pelting large swaths of Jefferson and Deschutes counties with potentially damaging golf ball-sized hail.
The National Weather Service issued severe thunderstorm warnings for various areas as the storms marched through, and weather spotters reported 1 3/4 to 2-inch in diameter hail from northwest Bend to the Terrebonne and Sisters areas, then into the Crooked River Ranch and Madras area.
It's been a cool, wet spring after a snowy winter, so the odds of all that lightning sparking wildfires is far less than during the peak wildfire season in August.
But many Central Oregonians were wowed by nature's display and grabbed their phones or cameras to capture photos or video of one of the most intense lightning storms in years, with the sky over the mountains flashing brightly every few seconds, as clouds reflected the light in swirling fashion.
Judey Berray, who lives off Cloverdale Road in the Sisters area, called it "the most intense electrical storm I've ever witnessed," with "continual sheet lightning across the sky toward the west, as if someone was flipping a light switch on and off, over and over!"
"It moved over us, and we heard a roar coming from the southwest, and within seconds, ice balls were slamming to the ground all around us," Berray said. "We were inside our vehicle and it sounded like rocks were being thrown at us."
Other area residents said they feared their cars may have been totaled by the pounding of the large hail.
Before the storm hit, following a dramatic sunset, Roberts Field in Redmond soared close to 90 degrees Thursday. "We skipped spring and went straight to summer" said NewsChannel 21 forecaster Emily Kirk of the warmest day of the year so far. But a cold front moving through Friday returns the region to seasonal averages, even a little below, lingering into the weekend, and some isolated - not as severe -- thunderstorms Friday evening.