February cold streak continues
SFL Weekly Watersheds Summary: Feb 12-18

WEATHER. The rule of thumb in south Florida is that you know a cold frigid cold front has descended from the north when daytime highs stay below 70 degress. Naples experienced 4 consecutive days of daytime highs that stayed below 70 degrees. The coldest of those days didn’t rise above 60 degrees. On two of those days, nighttime lows dropped into the high 30s. Not quite a freeze but cold winter weather by south Florida standards, especially with the strong north wind. February has also brought with it some rain. So far, Big Cypress National Preserve has received about 1.5 inches of rain this February. Our long term (10 year) February average is 1.8 inches. District wide, the Upper Kissimee and East Broward area are leading the way with a little over 3 inches of rain over the past 30 days.

BIG CYPRESS. The preserve has received 4 consecutive weeks of +0.25 inches of rainfall. That’s not summer rainfall amounts by any stretch of the imagination, but it has been enough to hold preserve-wide water levels steady for the past 4 weeks. Wetlands in the preserve are holding water at the same level as they were a month ago in late January. Wetland water stage has generally receded below our wet prairie habitats. The wetting front can currently be found at the transition between our tall cypress and swamp forest habitat. Currently, preserve-wide stage is 3 inches below the 5-year average for middle February and 8 inches below where we were at middle February of last year. Going back to the drought year of 2001, current preserve-wide stage is 12 inches higher than middle February of 2001. In summary, we are tracking at fairly normal February levels. There’s still water out in preserve, but you have to hunt for it back in our forested cypress strands and marshes.

LAKE O. Lake O stage has dropped to 11.3 ft msl. Lake stage is currently about 4 ft below middle February of last year, and about 3.75 ft below the 5-yr mid-February average. Historically speaking, current Lake O stage is about 6 inches above mid February of the 2001 drought year. Interestingly, one has to go all the way back to 1982 to find another February when lake level dropped below 12 ft msl during the month of February. (Lake levels dropped below 11 ft msl for much of the spring of 1982). That drought year was followed by the record setting El Nino of 1983, which boosted lake levels over 18 ft msl the very next year in February of 1983.

EVERGLADES. It was that El Nino that provided the impetus to add the S343s and S344 along the L28 levee, in order to provide another outlet valve for Water Conservation Area 3A and to re-establish a hydrologic connection between the Everglades and Big Cypress. Currently, Water Conservation Area 3 is holding about a 2-ft depth of water at its southern end (just north of the Trail) and holding about a half foot of water at its northern end (north of I75). Regulatory stage in 3A is currently about 5 inches below its mid February average, and about 8 inches below middle February of last year. Stage in the Park at P33 is currently about 6 inches below mid February of last year and 2-3 inches below its 5-yr mid February average.

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