Utah forecast: The beat of the heat goes on
Triple-digit highs • Weekend forecast includes hot temperatures, extreme wildfire danger, dirty air.
Published: June 22, 2012 11:01AM
Updated: June 22, 2012 11:34PM
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Like a mad percussionist working toward a sweaty drum crescendo, the sun will put the beat-down on Utah with triple-digit temperatures this weekend.

But the combination of high temps, high winds, dry thunderstorms and poor air quality threaten to make life difficult for firefighters, outdoor enthusiasts and those with respiratory ailments.

“It’s going to be warm and windy,” said Linda Cheng, a forecaster with the National Weather Service office in Salt Lake City.”We could get some moisture spread into the area Sunday, with dry thunderstorms over the mountains. The pattern in general is not very good for fires.”

Cheng said forecasters expect the hottest days of the year in Utah Saturday and Sunday, with highs forecast to hit triple digits Saturday and Sunday.

In southern Utah’s Dixie, it will be a veritable bass drum of heat that Mother Nature hammers, with highs predicted to sizzle well into the 100s on Saturday, mirroring Friday’s forecast.

As relative humidity statewide has dipped as low as a tongue-swelling 5 percent amid Utah’s high deserts, grasslands and parched forests, forecasters issued a statewide “red flag” extreme wildfire risk warning. Winds of 15-25 mph are predicted to buffet the region, with periodic gusts topping 50 mph, making for potentially explosive fire conditions.

Those risk factors also have led to bans on fireworks and open fires — except in approved campgrounds and established fire pits — on all public lands throughout the state. Several counties and cities also have put in place varying restrictions on fireworks and open fires.

Meanwhile, windblown dust, smoke from ongoing wildfires and inversion-trapped ozone and other pollutants have worked together to degrade air quality in the state’s urban areas going into this weekend. The Utah Division of Environmental Quality issued “red” or unhealthy air quality grades for Salt Lake, Davis, Box Elder, Tooele, Weber and Utah counties, while Cache, Uintah and Washington counties did little better, earning “yellow,” or compromised air quality ratings.

That means that people with lung disease, children and older adults and people who are active outdoors should limit prolonged outdoor exertion.

Ray Pacile, an environmental scientist with the Division of Air Quality, said pollution along the Wasatch Front could get progressively worse through the weekend, though winds clear out some of the pollutants.

Area swimming pools such as the outdoor facility at Liberty Park are gearing up for what promises to be a busy weekend as families try to beat the heat. Sierra Shepherd, a worker at the Liberty Park pool they haven’t yet had to close the gates this year because of overcrowding, but it could happen this weekend. The pool is adding a couple of lifeguards and front desk staff in anticipation of big crowds.

Cheng said temperatures in Salt Lake City are not too far off normal. The average temperature for the month of June is normally 69.6 degrees; thus far this year, the average has been 69.6. The big difference this year is precipitation, or the lack thereof. Salt Lake usually gets .98 inches of rain in June, but has reported only a trace thus far.

Salt Lake City’s high temperature Saturday is expected hit 100 degrees, up four degrees from Friday’s forecast; Ogden looked for 98 and 93, respectively; Provo 101 and 96; Logan 94 and 90; Wendover 96 and 91; Duchesne 95 and 91; Cedar City 95 degrees both days; St. George 103 and 102; and Moab 101 degrees on both days.

remims@sltrib.com

twharton@sltrib.com