Ghost of Okeechobee

The one constant on Lake Okeechobee is the only thing you can’t see,

Or in other words, evaporation.

Week after week it’s there, slow and steady and impossible to stop.

Inflows tend to be seasonal in nature, if also unpredictable. Fay did in two weeks (i.e., raise lake stage 4 feet) in what evaporation and structural releases took eight months to reverse. And that was fast! The winter recession following Fay was accelerated by the lack of any off-setting rains, and even worse, a need to release Lake water down the Caloosahatchee to stem off salt water intrusion.

Compare that to our past dry season. It was unusually wet. That meant that structural releases to balance the estuary weren’t needed. But eventually, as the rains continued, opening the gates to lower lake stage for the impending hurricane season was, raising alarm bells that the estuary would be thrown out of balance in the direction of being too fresh.

Lake Okeechobee perimeter levee near Lakeport

Of course those hurricanes never “appeared.”

But neither did evaporation, or at least you couldn’t see it:

Still, you can count on it to lower the Lake about 5 feet per year.

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