South Florida drought conditions ease from severe to moderate

Sun Sentinel

Thanks to normal to above normal rains for the past two months, drought conditions across much of South Florida have improved from the severe to moderate category, the National Weather Service reported Thursday.

August was particularly rainy in part due to Hurricane Irene. Its fringes produced 1 to 2 inches of rain over the eastern areas of Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties.

Overall, West Palm Beach received 11.98 inches of rain, or more than 4 inches above normal in August. Miami received 11.08 inches, more than 2 inches above normal.

As a result, since June 1, West Palm’s rainfall deficit is now .09 inches below normal, while Miami’s rainfall is 4 inches above normal.

On the other hand, Fort Lauderdale remains the Sahara Desert of South Florida.

The city received 6.38 inches in August, or 1.06 inches below normal. Since June 1, it has amassed a rainfall deficit of 10.63 inches below normal.

Blame the whims of Mother Nature and the fact that the city’s rain gauge is located at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport, said meteorologist Kim Brabander.

Because the airport is near the coast, it doesn’t benefit from the sea breeze – which creates clouds and showers when it clashes with warm, moist air a few miles inland, he said.

“Generally, coastal areas see 5 to 10 inches less rain than inland areas,” Brabander said.

He added that despite Fort Lauderdale's low readings, much of Broward County saw more normal rains.

Meanwhile, Lake Okeechobee, the region’s backup water supply, rose from 10.5 to 11 feet above mean sea level – but still remains 3 feet below normal.

The outlook for September:  A good chance of above normal rainfall.

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