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Pierce County hit hardest by Wednesday's thunderstorms

The National Weather Service issued a Red Flag Warning for parts of western Washington Wednesday saying scattered lightning in dry areas could cause fires to start.

SNOHOMISH COUNTY, Wash. — Pierce County saw the most lightning strikes of the day when a series of thunderstorms moved over western Washington on Wednesday, according to the National Weather Service.

The Northwest Interagency Coordination Center said there were 250 lightning strikes in Washington between Tuesday evening and 10 a.m. Wednesday.

Tacoma Public Utilities reported at least five power outages were due to lightning, with others still under investigation. Many customers had power restored by mid-afternoon.

Other areas including the Kitsap Peninsula and King County experienced lightning, thunder and heavy rain mid-morning. Puget Sound Energy reported 32 active power outages impacting nearly 536 customers as of 3:30 p.m. More than 7,100 PSE customers were without power around 11 a.m.

The storms led to the Federal Aviation Administration issuing a ground stop for incoming air travel at Sea-Tac Airport for about 30 minutes. The ground stop was canceled around 10:15 a.m.

The lightning and dry conditions prompted a Red Flag Warning to be issued for portions of western Washington. The Red Flag Warning is in place for areas including the Olympic Mountains and the North Cascades. The warning means that “critical fire weather conditions are either imminent or occurring now,” according to the National Weather Service.

The Red Flag Warning is in effect until 11 p.m. Wednesday for the north and central coastal lowlands and the west portion of the Olympic Mountains (fire weather zones 650, 651 and 652). A Red Flag Warning is also in effect until 2 a.m. Thursday for areas of the North Cascades “generally above 1,500 feet” (fire weather zone 658).

RELATED: Western Washington Forecast

Radar showed the storms were moving north and passing over the San Juan Islands just after noon Wednesday.

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How to stay safe during a lightning storm

As storms move through western Washington, residents should stay aware and indoors. 

Here are some ways to stay safe if you're outside when the storm comes through: 

  • Seek shelter immediately.
  • If you're not near shelter, get off elevated ground, crouch in a ball-like position with your head tucked.
  • Things to avoid: 
    • Lying flat on the ground
    • Sheltering under an isolated tree or a cliff or rocky overhang
    • Ponds, lakes and other bodies of water
    • Objects that conduct electricity (such as barbed wire fences, power lines, or windmills)
    • Open spaces such as golf courses, parks, playgrounds or beaches
    • Standing near tall structures, which are more likely to sustain a lightning strike
  • Separate from others to reduce the potential number of injuries from a lightning strike.
  • Open structures such as porches, gazebos or baseball dugouts won't protect you from lightning.

RELATED: More lightning safety tips

Download the KING 5 app to check the interactive radar near you, as well as the latest forecast, cameras and current conditions.

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