June 5, 2009

May rainfall quench drought's thirst.

The wet season continued to arrive in full force over much of Florida.

All drought was eliminated outside of a small pocket of along the southwest coast that the recent rains have missed.

Several records were broken for May precipitation across southern Florida, including some that had stood for more than 75 years. For the month of May, Daytona Beach recorded 22.33 inches (685 percent of normal), Sanford 17.00 inches, Ponce Inlet 17.74 inches, and Kissimmee 17.09 inches, compared to just 3.92 inches in Naples and 3.87 inches in Key West.

A rare, slow-moving May storm dumped widespread copious amounts of rainfall, especially on northeastern sections, dramatically easing the drought across the state.

Most of Florida received heavy rains (more than 4 inches) with locally up to 2 feet (25.49 inches at Ormond Beach, 23.75 inches at the Flagler County State Fairgrounds, and more than 21 inches at Daytona Beach) and a prolonged period of strong onshore winds.

Prior to this storm, south Florida had experienced one of its driest dry seasons (November 1-April 30) on record. The South Florida Water Management District reported the driest 6-month period since records began in 1932. West-central Florida was also gripped in drought and had enacted some of the tightest water restrictions in recent memory.

The fire danger, which had been extremely high across central and southern Florida (KBDI 600-750, corresponding to extreme dryness) has greatly diminished (most locations now less than 100).

Soils are completely saturated across northern and central Florida, and the widespread rainfall has sufficiently moistened soils and greened up vegetation (courtesy of Florida State climatologist David Zierden). Average stream flows, at record low levels two weeks ago, have undergone a major reversal with many now at record high levels.

As of May 26, Lake Okeechobee was at 10.87 feet, up from 10.55 feet eight days ago, and still rising as swollen rivers over the Kissimmee River basin drain southward into it. As a result, widespread 1 to 2 category improvement was made throughout Florida. Exceptions included lingering D1(H) northwest of Lake Okeechobee where rainfall was at a minimum (2 to 3 inches) compared to surrounding areas, and extreme southern Florida where southern Miami-Dade County wells were still in the lowest tenth percentile and had yet to show significant recovery. After the data cutoff period, however, some wells had begun to quickly rebound.

Currently as of June 5, Lake Okeechobee was at 11.41 ft.

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