October 22, 2009

South Florida's dry season has arrived

By Curtis Morgan, Miami Herald
The National Weather Service on Wednesday pronounced the rainy season officially over, after five months that brought a little more rain regionally than normal -- 42 inches, topping the typical 35 to 40 inches. But without a tropical system, some places got a lot more rain than others. Hialeah, for instance, recorded 49.50 inches. Fort Lauderdale International Airport's gauges collected only 29.30. Miami International Airport was in the middle with 41.79. ``Unless you have a lot of rain from a big organized weather system, it's typical to see these variations,'' said Robert Molleda, a meteorologist with the service in Miami.

The healthy wet season didn't totally erase water shortage worries that have gripped the region in previous years, said Susan Sylvester, director of operations for the South Florida Water Management District. Lake Okeechobee, the heart of South Florida's water supply system, is in good shape at 14.19 feet above sea level. But things are more mixed in the marshy water conservation areas west of urban Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties, with one, the Arthur R. Marshall Loxahatchee National Wildlife, already a half-foot below normal. Sylvester said a final month of hot, windy weather evaporated more water than what fell in some marshes.``People still need to really take conservation seriously,'' she said.

Most of South Florida, which gets only about a third of its rain during the dry season, remains on twice-weekly water restrictions. Rainy season began May 11, nine days earlier than average. It ended Sunday, a day later than average.

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