Ernesto eyes south Florida
SFL Weekly Watersheds Summary: Aug 14-20

With Ernesto bearing down I rushed out of the gate this week to get as much updated as I could before everyone goes into hurricane preparation mode. I was able to update most of the data.

Hopefully Ernest will steer out of harms way. Hydrologists are fond of tropical system rain, but the wind that often accompanies them is a necessary evil of the meteorolgical phenomena that we would all like to avoid, and not have to deal with whenever possible. Alas, we have no control of the storm’s track, its wind or its rain. Its always a matter of preparing for the worst, hoping for the best, and counting the raindrops after it falls. Water managers in the Kissimme Basin were hoping to get some rain from the event to bring that area out of the rain deficit mode that its been in for the all the this year’s rainy season, but District meteorologists indicate that the current track of the storm along Florida’s east coast decreases that possiblity. This may still change as the forecast evolves and sharpens its focus as the storm moves closer.

Big Cypress National Preserve has quietly had two consecutive weeks of +3 inch rainfall. This has flooded several inches of surface water throughout the preserve’s wet prairies, and even flushed water as high as its hydric pinelands. Mesic pinelands and hammocks are still mostly dry however, and this year’s late August water levels are still about 0.5 ft below the last August’s levels. Any significant rainfall from Ernesto could jump water levels into the mesic pinelands. Last year, mesic pinelands in the preserve were flooded from late June to late November. In comparison, water levels this year have remained below mesic pineland flood stage all summer to date. We’ll recount the numbers after Ernesto has passed, so stay tuned for next week.

The big news in the Conservation Areas was the abundant rain in the Everglades Agricultural Area, at +4 inches for the week. Inflows into northern 3A increased substantially last week as a result, with flows through the S8 peaking up to 2000 cfs, and inflows from the S190 and S140 both flowing at just below 1000 cfs. Also, the S12A was openned for the first time all year, although only flowing at a low rate. Inflows to WCAs 1 and 2 from the EAA also increased as a result of all the rain. Inflows from the S6Pumps jumped to 3000 cfs and inflows from the S7Pumps jumped to 1000 cfs.

The east Caloosahatchee basin also received abundant rainfall last week (+4 inches), resulting in S79 discharge spiking to +7000 cfs. That’s the highest S79 discharges have been since Wilma. The next highest peak was just below 5000 cfs from the frontal storm that passed over the peninsula in early February 2006. In comparision to discharges down the St Lucie, the S80 recorded neglible discharge for the week. Flows through the S80 have also been neglibible for the month of August, as well as for most of this year’s rainy season to date. Lake stage is still down at 12.1 ft msl, which is around 4 ft lower than it was just 12 months ago in August of 2005. Lake stages in Lake Istokpoga, Kissimmee, and Toho are all setting new 5-year low water marks for August which underscores the need for rain in the Kissimmee and Istokpoga watersheds.

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