Wet season of ’05

Do you remember the 2005 storm season?

It was one to remember. And a season that still haunts us — in Florida and in communities across the Gulf Coast.

A record 28 storms formed, with a record 15 of those becoming hurricanes.

That kept us on watch all summer, all fall … and even into the early winter. The last storm didn’t run its course until January 6th. It was the season that upended the normal nomenclature of the English alphabet storm-naming system: the Greek alphabet was called in to relief pitch for the uplanned extra innings — in the form of Delta, Epsilon, and Zeta — in a season that seemed determined to never end.

In south Florida, 2005 was also a wet season to remember. It started fast out of the gate with 20-30 inches of rain in June. That was over twice the 10 inch average.

And then it ended with an exclamation point at the end of October with Wilma.

All told, over 50 inches of rain fell between the start of June and the end of October (2005) in Big Cypress National Preserve.

That was enough rain to push the wetting front up into the preverve’s hydric pinelands for 6 consecutive months, twice the 3-month average.

It was a storm season that many communties along the Gulf Coast — and nationally — have stories about, especially the harrowing and heart-breaking accounts from Katrina.

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Even in places that did not sustain a direct hit, the unending parade of storms, and trying to track their ever changing trajectory, made many a soal succomb to various forms of Hurricane Fidget Disease, symptoms of which vary.
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I remember exactly where I was when I caught that syndrome, whatever it is and whatever you want to call it.
It was the year prior, in 2004, when Ivan formed in the Tropics and started its march towards the peninsula.

Charley, Francis, and Jeanne had already made landfall in Florida, each dropping their rains plentiful on the Lake and in the Kissimmee Valley.

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Had Ivan made Florida landfall, which it didn’t, it would have set a new record for the most hurricane-strength storms to make landfall in Florida in a single year. Instead, it drifted further to the west where it eventually made landfall in Alabama, somewhat weaker than its early fury signaled, but bringing a good dose of rain to the panhandle.

When I was recently in southeast Texas, I was surprised — and at first in disbelief — to hear them recount harrowing tales of hydrologic havoc and forest-toppling winds from a storm that had pretty much slipped my consciousness, called Rita — and also a storm of the 2005 season.
But I would have to forgive myself, there were simply too many storms that season to keep track. And with storms, we tend to remember the ones that hit closest to home.
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All over southeast Texas, in the Big Thicket, mature forests of Loblolly, Magnolia, and Beech trees that once arched up in a cathedral-like canopy of shaded light and greenish sunbeams were replaced with toppled tree stumps and a less interesting view of open sky.
Then there were the streams. It was hard to fathom on the day that I was there, but certain stream reaches rose 20-30 ft above stage, overflowing their stream banks and touching up against the edge of the 100 year floodplain.

There is a rule in south Texas:

Don’t build on the 100 year floodplain.
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Or let me restate that.
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There should be a rule about building on the 100 year floodplain, wherever you live … and in the event that you do build on the 100 year floodplain, the corollary piece of advice is to build your house on stilts.
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The same two pieces of advice apply when building along the coast in Florida.
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