South Florida Wringing out From Record-Setting Wet Season
When Florida farmers say it was a water-logged summer, they’re not kidding. According to the South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD), the region is coming off its most prolific wet season on record. From June through October, an average of 51.64 inches of rain (150% above average) fell Districtwide. The previous record for this five-month period was set in 1947 when hurricanes caused widespread flooding that led to the formation of the Central and Southern Florida Flood Control District, the predecessor to the SFWMD.
Similarly for wet season 2017, trouble from the tropics contributed mightily to the tall rainfall tally. Hurricane Irma alone spread jaw-dropping amounts of precipitation across the entire peninsula.
As a result of the historic rainfall events, all eyes have been on Lake Okeechobee and its aged earthen dike. As of this posting, the lake’s navigable depth was just less than 17 feet. According to the SFWMD, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers strives to maintain the lake’s water level between 12.5 feet and 15.5 feet. In the weeks post-Irma, Lake Okeechobee was topping the 17-foot mark.
For the St. Johns River Water Management District (SJRWMD), repairs are underway at the District’s Lake Apopka North Shore, which experienced damage due to Irma. Water levels are beginning to drop however, reports indicate.
Similar to South Florida, the SJRWMD experienced an excessive amount of precipitation in a relatively short period of time. Over its two-day onslaught on the Sunshine State, Irma dumped 2.2 trillion gallons of rainwater (enough to cover 6.7 million football fields in one foot of water) across the SJRWMD’s 18-county service area.
In addition, a persistent Nor’easter system that developed in the weeks following Irma pounded coastal areas of the SJRWMD. During October, most counties in the District recorded above-average rainfall amounts. Standouts among the crowd were Brevard, Flagler, Okeechobee, and St. Johns counties — all coming in with well above average precipitation amounts.