FORT MYERS, Fla. — April and May are the driest months of the year. Drought conditions are expected to worsen over the coming weeks, but relief will come with the wet season returning in June.
We are in the heart of the dry season in Southwest Florida. Not only is it dry, but Lee County is also the driest county in the state, follow charlotte, then collier county. This is according to the Keetch Byram Drought Index or otherwise known as KBDI. The U.S. Drought Monitor has most in Southwest Florida in moderate drought.
And while we may be seeing a few showers on Thursday afternoon and evening, it will not be close to enough to break the drought conditions set up in Southwest Florida. Any benefits from that rain will already be gone by the weekend. And with the early unset of critically dry conditions, the Florida Forest Service is concerned.
“Typically, we aren’t this dry this early in the year,” said Ryan Mason, Florida Forest Service area supervisor for the Caloosahatchee Division.
Mason is constantly monitoring drought conditions and how it will impact wildfire activity. He says our current conditions are a bit eye-popping to him.
“This year the drought index being so high compared to previous years has put everyone on a state of alert,” said Mason. “Everyone is preparing for an anticipated high fire season.”
In recent weeks, Southwest Florida has started to see some sea breeze activity, but those storms are not dropping rain over the driest areas.
“There are some many varying factors into individual places around the state with inshore winds, onshore winds, and of course, we have a large body of water, in Lake Okeechobee just to the east of here that provides no windbreak and produces its own weather patterns,” said Mason.
And while we may have been unlucky in where rain has fallen this dry season, the quickly growing concrete jungle will likely see more runoff. South Florida Water Management District says they are keeping up with the new growth demand for now, but it is something they are monitoring.
“We set up minimal developable levels, which limits the amount of water that can be removed from an aquifer,” said Phil Flood, Regional Representative for South Florida Water Management District. “And if an aquifer is going to get into a condition, where is it too low then we won’t allow any more permits to be issued.”
And while we are seeing dry conditions at the surface layers of the ground and lower levels in our aquifers, Flood says Southwest Florida is still in good shape with our water supply.
“Water levels, aquifer levels are down a little bit, but that is nothing uncommon for this time of year,” said Flood. “They are not in a condition where we need to be worried or concerned, but we would like the public to recognize that they need to conserve water year-round, but right now in particular.”
Flood says with the growing population in Southwest Florida, the water management district recently revisited its 20-year-plan to ensure the region has enough water supply for future development.