Numerous spectacular lightning strikes in the South Hills area of Missoula were reported on Thursday evening, as a strong storm cell swept through the area, bringing with it strong, gusty winds and soaking rains in some locations.

Forecaster Trent Smith with the National Weather Service office in Missoula said Thursday at about 8:00 p.m. that the storm spanned a distance from Idaho to the Canadian border.

"The disturbance that ran through the flow actually caused a long line of thunderstorms that stretched all the way from the Canadian border to Lowell, Idaho," Smith said. "As that system tracked through Idaho into western Montana, it actually put down quite a bit of lightning. We're looking at just over 1,500 lightning strikes in the last 12 hours from this system."

Contrary to some of the dry thunderstorms the area has recently received, Smith said this system brought an appreciable amount of rain.

"Right along with that lightning, we actually did get some pretty decent wetting rains," Smith said. "We were getting some reports of up to a half an inch in some locations, that occurred in a very short time. We are receiving reports that the Lolo Creek Complex did receive over a tenth of an inch. We had a report in Sleeman Gulch of 22 hundredths of an inch of rain, but over in the Miller Creek area, we got a report of over 51 hundredths of an inch of precipitation."

Along with the good news of rain, the storm also brought with it damaging winds.

"These thunderstorms also produced a good bit of gusty winds," Smith said. "We got reports of 50 mile per hour winds near Missoula, up around Kalispell and Columbia Falls, with some tree damage and power outages here and there."

Fire Information Officer Dave Schmitt said Thursday night that the storm did bring some rain to the Lolo Creek Complex, but not enough to make a real difference in the firefighting efforts. He said the wind blew quite a few of the firefighter's tents around the camp during the storm. He said fire officials would be watching the fire perimeter closely through the night and into the morning to see if the lightning caused any new starts.

National Weather Service Forecaster Trent Smith