Florida’s “perfect storm”

Does a rainy May make a wet season?

Not if its deluges are too close to the coast (i.e. Daytona) and not if the core wet-season months that follow fall sub par (Naples and Ft Myers).

Prior to canals and levees, waters spread out amply, seeped down slowly, and flowed south sluggishly … in the slow-motion hydrology ride we call sheet flow.

Sheet flow is sort of like the syrup you pour over a pancake.


That molasses-like speed has nothing to do with Florida’s water – it’s as fast as any – but everything to do with the lay of the land.

It’s flat, low, and channel-less.

Enter canals and levees:

They drain water out to sea (fast!) and also constrain the foot print water can spread out on.

That’s resulted in many sloughs and strands becoming disconnected from their upstream ‘slow-drip” sources, and turned coastal estuaries into sacrificial dumping grounds where the big rain weeks and months short circuit through before getting lost to sea.

Restoration lies in finding ways to hold back the water from the coast (a technical term hydrologists call “inland storage”), and saving it so it can be soaked in and slow dripped south.

In the meantime, the canals and levees have warped our thinking about the vicissitudes of rainfall:

We hope beyond hope for the perfect rain month, season, and year to replenish our watersheds to the precise thresholds we divine … all the while knowing that the weather rarely falls from the sky in such tidy packages.

I call that the Everglades’ version of waiting around for the “perfect storm.”

Of course other people may have different definitions for that term:

After all, this is hurricane season.

Click here to see rain charts for your area, data courtesy of South Florida Water Management District (weather).

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