Official hurricane season draws to a close
SFL Weekly Watersheds Summary: Nov 20-26

RAINFALL. This week marks the end of this year’s official hurricane season (June 1 to November 30). It was a quiet one in general, and a much appreciated lull in tropical storm activity for a storm-beaten Florida that for a couple of consecutive year’s now has taken the brunt of several major land-falling storms. With the turning of the calendar page into December, we can officially say goodbye to this year’s rainy, wet, and storm seasons: the 4.5 month-long meteorological wet season ended in early October, the 6-month stretch of above-average rain months (>4 in/month) ended with the passing of October, and now the official hurricane season will conclude at weeks end with the passing of November. Now if only the El Nino kicks up we may be in store for above-average dry season rainfalls. (We average about 2 inches of rain per month in the winter dry season.) But it’s always a waiting game in south Florida, where the transitions from flood to drought conditions of varying degrees are always just around the bend.

BIG CYPRESS. It continues to be a rapid Fall drydown for the preserve. Preserve-wide, water levels in the preserve are tracking alongside the 5-year low for the end of November. But don’t forget that just 6 years back was our 2000-01 drought, which is not included in the 5-year average, and which we are currently tracking 1-2 inches above. Water levels have now dropped around 10 inches in the 12 weeks that have passed since the wetting front crested up into the mesic pinelands in the wake of Ernesto. This year’s high-water mark was started and ended abruptedly, and was relatively short-lived (about 3 weeks). In comparison, last year’s high-water mark of water cresting into the mesic pinelands was sustained for over 3 months … but last year was one the wetter side of the equation, and bookended by record-setting rainfall amounts in June (~20 inches) and a Wilma-fueled October. This year’s late November water levels are around 6 inches lower than late November of last year, … and we are currently tracking at identical levels as early July and middle August of this year. Suffice it to say that this year’s sheetflow regime got a late start out of the gate, got up to a short-lived full running capacity following Ernesto, but conked out early to where we are today. Our wetland mosaic is no longer connected by a single sheet of water — (the wetting front is retreating back into the tall cypress and marshes) — and it is no longer flowing other than at some of our untamed canals.

LAKE OKEECHOBEE. Lake stage is currently about 4 ft lower than late November of last year. The last time that lake stage was this low in late November was during the drought year of 2000, and before that you have to go back 15 years to Novembers of 1989 and 1990.

EVERGLADES. Regulatory stage in WCA 3A is tracking at a 5-year November low, and is currently about 1 ft lower than November of last year. Even at such a “low end of the spectrum” November, water depths in southern 3A are still at 2.5 ft deep in comparison to 1.3 ft depths in the sloughs of the Park to the south and in the neighborhood of 1 ft slough depths in 3A north of the Alley. Water flows through the S12s are occurring only in the easternmost gate (S12D) at a rate of around 100 cfs, which is a fraction of the normal late-November combined S12 flow rate of around 2000 cfs.

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