Fires burn in Big Cypress as Miami Beach floods
SFL Weekly Watersheds Summary: May 14 – 20

WEATHER. We often think of droughts and floods representing extreme opposite ends of south Florida’s water cycle, with the pendulum swinging seasonally back and forth between the two, and on occassion, as has been the case this year, swinging deep into the extremes. But this week proved that the two are not mutually exclusive and can paradoxically exist simultaneously at the same time. Coastal showers on the lower east coast dropped over the weekend dropped 5-7 inches of rain in parts of Miami Beach, causing localized street flooding in that area, while wildfires in the Big Cypress continue to burn and Lake O still stands a few inches above 9 ft msl.
In other news, weekly night-time lows finally broke across the 70° plane. That’s about a week earlier than last year, and a good sign that the rainy season is ready to reve up. In comparison, a bit of continental cold air propelled night-time lows into the low 50s up in Tallahassee. Miami night-time lows have consistently been above 70° since late April, and in Key West night-time lows pretty much remained above 70° for the entire year other than a brief reprieve under 70° for a month-long period in February.

We are two-thirds through May. Big Cypress National Preserve has accumulated 3 inches of rain so far in May, which puts it on pace to reach its 4-inch May average over the next week and a half. Miami-Dade leads the way with 4 inches of May rain in the books already. The Upper Kissimmee trails all other basins with less 1 inch rain in comparison. District-wide, there’s been 2.4 inches of rain so far this month, in comparison to the 10-year historical May average of 3.5 inches. The good news is that May has brought some rain, unlike the May 2000 and May 2004 when less than 1.5 inches fell District wide for the month. The most abundant May was in 2003 when 6 inches of rain fell for the month District-wide.

The bigger picture is that June is just around the corner. District-wide June has averaged 8.5 inches of rain over the past 10 years, ranking it as the highest rainfall month of the year. July, September, and August have average 7.2, 7.8, and 8.1 inches in comparison. This means that all eye’s will be on June as a make or break rainfall month for putting an end to the multi-season 18-month drought that has slowly tightened its grip on the region. The District received only 6 inches of June rain last year (2006), in comparison to 15 inches of District-wide rain in June of 2005.

BIG CYPRESS. Thanks to 3 inches of May rainfall, the water table has ended its preciptious decline into the depths of the shallow aquifer. Current preserve-wide stage is the same as it was in late March and early April. But water is still scarce on its wetland landscape. Preserve-wide stage is still tracking about a half foot below the base of our deepest wetlands (swamp forest and marshes). Historically speaking, preserve-wide stage is 1.5 ft higher than last year’s mid-May low-water mark of 2 ft below swamp forest and marsh wetlands. Roadside views of the system provide a skewed vision of the interior. The canals tend to collect waters from localized storms, especially in areas like HP Williams where the confluence of two canals preferentially pool water behind the elevated roadbeds.

EVERGLADES. Regulatory stage in WCA 3A is currently about 10 inches below the mid-May 5-year average, and about a half foot below mid May of last year. Regulatory stage has dropped a little over 2 ft over the past 6 month period. Sloughs in southern 3A are currently holding about a foot of water. In comparison, sloughs in northern 3A have been dry since mid March. Down in the Park, stage in Shark River Slough at P33 is currently tracking at the same level as its 5-year mid-May average and is also identical to mid-May of last year. Over 2 inches of rain fell on Loxahatchee last week. Water levels in its center sloughs are still holding on at shallow depths, and have not gone dry yet as we predicted just a few weeks back.

LAKE O. Lake O stage has now been below the bottom of its interior littoral marshes for 13 consecutive months, and below 12 ft msl for 4 consecutive months. During the drought of 2000-2001, Lake stage stayed under the littoral zone for almost 18 consecutive months, and below 12 ft msl for 10 consecutive months. Lake O is currently 3.5 ft below late-May of last year, and about 4 ft below the 5-year late-May average.

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