Thursday’s edition of the National Weather Service focuses on hurricanes. Florida leads the United States in the number of landfalling hurricanes, the agency notes. Severe Weather Awareness Week kicked off Monday with information on lightning threats; Tuesday covered marine hazards; Wednesday looked at tornadoes and thunderstorms; and Friday will cover heat, cold and wildfires. (Image credit: NWS-Key West)
Severe Drought conditions moved in to Florida’s East Coast this week, the U.S. Drought Monitor reported Thursday.
A large swath of the peninsula, from Brevard county south to the southern tip and west into Collier County, has been in the grip of Moderate Drought. But rain shortages have become significant enough to warrant an uptick in the status from central and northern Palm Beach County north into southern Brevard. The Severe Drought designation extends inland but not as far west as Lake Okeechobee.
However, the Drought Monitor map now shows the eastern half of Martin County, most of St. Lucie County, and almost all of Indian River County under Severe Drought.
“A Severe Drought area was added from near Melbourne south to Port St Lucie, Florida where precipitation deficits are in excess of 12 inches during the past 180 days,” NOAA’s Brad Pugh said in the new analysis. “This newly introduced D2 area is also supported by negative SPI values at varying time ranges.
“The abnormal dryness (D0) area was expanded to include western Collier County given the increasing 90-day precipitation deficits. As of January 15, water levels in Lake Okeechobee were more than 2 feet below normal. Although it is a dry time of year, southern Florida will be closely monitored in subsequent weeks for further degradation.”
January rainfall deficits have been building throughout the entire state, from Key West to Tallahassee, and it’s unclear how much relief, if any, this weekend’s cold front and accompanying line of showers and thunderstorms might provide.
West Palm Beach has the highest monthly deficit with 1.68 inches; followed by Fort Lauderdale at 1.12 inches; Orlando at 1.09 inches; Jacksonville at 1.03 inches; and Fort Pierce at 1 inch.
The Key West deficit stands at 0.98 of an inch; Melbourne is at 0.97; Brooksville, 0.90; Vero Beach, 0.88; Fort Myers, 0.88; Naples, 0.86 (Naples has only had a trace of rain all month); Gainesville, 0.84; Tallahassee, 0.75 ; Miami, 0.73 of an inch; and Tampa, 0.20.
Many of these locations are outside the designated drought areas due to heavy rains in December. But most of that beneficial rainfall missed the East Coast.