What’s the biggest stream in south Florida?
Answer: The Gulf Stream.
The Gulf Stream is an awesome force
It flows at the mind dizzying rate of 30,000,000,000 gallons per second. Or in more normal stream units, around 4,000,000,000 cubic feet per second (cfs). If those numbers don’t register in your mind, don’t feel bad – join the club. They are too big to conceptualize as isolated numbers. Instead, consider them relative to south Florida’s biggest flow gate – the S79 W. P. Franklin Dam and Lock along the Caloosahatchee River. It peaked at a weekly flow rate of around 25,000 during the week of Tropical Storm Fay (in 2008), and is currently at just under 2,000 cfs.
That’s where our Lake Okeechobulator comes in handy.
With a few quick clicks of its buttons, it’s telling me that if we were able to catch the entire Gulf Stream by plunking a giant imaginary bucket into the Straights of Florida (from Cuba to the Keys), it would fill up one full Lake Okeechobee volume – 5.5 million acre feet – every minute. That adds up to 1,440 full Lake Okeechobees every day. So next time you’re out on Lake Okeechobee, staring out at water as far as the eye can see — don’t forget it’s a drop in the can for the Gulf Stream, accounting for only 33 seconds worth of water passing through the Florida Straights.