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Recent rainfall and drought conditions in Southwest Florida

Posted at 6:11 PM, May 01, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-01 18:11:48-04

Last week I mentioned the fact that part of Southwest Florida was under severe drought and almost the entire rest of the area was under moderate drought. In fact, 26.4% of the state of Florida was under severe drought and 65.2% of the state was under a moderate or severe drought last week. 97.7% of the state was at least abnormally dry, but things have changed over the past week.

Two cold fronts moved through the state. One last Sunday and one yesterday dropping significant amounts of rain in our area. Parts of our area received 3 to 4 inches of rain during the past several days. One would think that would solve our drought problem completely, but not quite.

Rainfall in any form will provide some drought relief. A good analogy might be how medicine and illness relate to each other. A single dose of medicine can alleviate symptoms of illness, but it usually takes a sustained program of medication to cure an illness. Likewise, a single rainstorm will not break the drought, but it might provide temporary relief.

Light to moderate showers will probably only provide cosmetic relief, which provides short term impacts. Thunderstorms like the ones associated with these two cold fronts that moved through produced large amounts of precipitation in a very short time, so most of the rain ran off into drainage channels and streams rather than soak into the ground.

Soaking rains are the best medicine to alleviate drought. Water that enters the soil recharges groundwater, which in turn sustains vegetation and feeds streams during periods of no rain. A single soaking rain will provide lasting relief from drought conditions, but multiple rains are required to break a drought and return conditions to within the normal range.

So where does that leave us now in Southwest Florida and statewide? Now just over 7% of the state is under severe drought, but for Southwest Florida southeast Lee and Collier county remain under severe drought. 43% of the state is under a moderate or severe drought which does include most of Southwest Florida, but now 84.3% of the sunshine state is at least abnormally dry. This includes the northern portions of Charlotte county as well as far inland areas.

Fortunately in regards to drought conditions our rainy season is right around the corner. It typically starts the between the end of May and the beginning of June. Expect drought conditions to be completely relieved in Southwest Florida some time during this period.