Water Log 9/16

Waiting for this year’s Ernesto

Week of September 10 -16

The District continues to average around 5 inches of rain over the past 30 days. (view District-wide rainfall) Big Cypress National Preserve is leading the way with 8 inches. Eastern Broward County has had a winter-esque 2.5 inches over the past 30 days.

Naples much-awaited summer afternoon storms have finally kicked in. At September’s halfway point, Naples has received around 5 inches of rain, Ft Myers only around 2.5 inches, and the eastern end of the Collier County has received around 6-7 inches. The long-term September average for Southwest Florida and Big Cypress National Preserve is around 9.5 inches. (view Southwest Florida rainfall)

Last year’s wet season was also on the dry end of the equation until the late August arrival of Ernesto, plus two consecutive rainy weeks in the beginning of September saved the day.

Those rains gave a momentary boost to last year’s (2006’s) otherwise dry wet season, (1) causing the wetting front to in Big Cypress National Preserve and Corkscrew to rise all the way up into the mesic pine habitat, (2) adding around 1.5 ft to the Lake pushing it up to 13.4 ft msl by mid September, and (3) starting Conservation Area 3A on a 1.5 ft rise that peaked at 11.3 ft mean sea level and fed downstream Everglades National Park with a +1500 cfs flow rate from mid September through early November.

Without such a boost this year, water levels in Corkscrew have yet to break out of the lowest of low-water refugia. Lake Okeechobee stage is 4 ft down from last September, and 6 ft down from the 5-yr mid September average. Header water flows into Everglades National Park have yet to materialize through the S12s. Regulatory stage in Water Conservation Area 3A are two feet below last September. In fact, this year’s mid-September regulatory stage for 3A is only about 0.5 ft higher than 2006’s mid-June low water mark (that occurred before the summer rains kicked in).

Regulatory stage in Water Conservation Areas 1 and 2 are also down. WCA2 regulatory stage is around 1 ft below its mid September average, and around 1.5 ft below mid September of last year. Loxahatchee (WCA1) is down around 7 inches from mid September of last year, and around 3-5 inches from its 5-yr mid September average.

Wet-season sanity prevails in Big Cypress National Preserve. Its southern half (the area south of US41) is tracking right along its 5-yr mid September average. The northern half of the preserve is more affected by the lack of rain. It is around a half foot down from its mid-September average, but still high enough to flood water above its cypress communities and into the wet prairies.

In summary, barring a 2007 version of 2006’s Ernesto deluge in the next 6 weeks, we’ll be entering the 2007 dry season at a much lower level than a year ago in 2006. Lake O is at its historic September low-water mark. Everglades National Park is at a 17-year September low-water mark. Corkscrew Swamp is at a 35 year mid September low-water record. Suffice it to say its turning into the wet season that wasn’t.
But I’ve learned to never make a call until it happens. Especially when it involves the weather. October 1999 comes to mind as a particularly wet October — October storms were very active that year (Harvey, a lesser known Katrina, Irene). And in November 1998 the remnants of Mitch dropped over a foot of rain in the preserve. So there’s still time before the rainy season and tropical storm season to do its work.
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