JUST IN: Drought monitor tags South Florida in latest report

The U.S. Drought Monitor has identified South Florida for the first time since June as unusually parched.

In a report released this morning, the National Drought Mitigation Center is showing Monroe, Miami-Dade, Collier and Broward counties as being “abnormally dry.”

It’s the lowest level on the drought monitor’s 5-level scale, but could be a sign of deepening conditions considering the Climate Prediction Center’s forecast of a drier and warmer remainder to the winter.

According to the report, 28 percent of Florida is considered abnormally dry, with 7 percent in moderate drought.

Florida drought mapĀ  Feb. 22, 2018

A year ago, 65 percent of the state was suffering from abnormally dry conditions with about 25 percent in moderate drought.

But that worsened during 2017’s spring months so that much of the state was in some form of drought by May, including areas north of Lake Okeechobee that were suffering extreme drought.

Florida drought map May 4, 2017.

Much of South Florida has received less rain than normal this dry season. Since Nov. 2, the 16-county region managed by the South Florida Water Management District has received 4.45 inches, which is 3.13 inches lower than normal.

About 8.5 inches of rain has fallen in coastal areas of Palm Beach County this dry season – 2.65 inches below normal. It’s dryer in the western portion of the county, which is down 3 inches from normal.

Since the beginning of the year, the water management district area, which stretches from the Kissimmee Basin north of Lake Okeechobee through Miami Dade County, is down 1.63 inches.

The lower rain amounts could be good for Lake Okeechobee and the St. Lucie Estuary, which is still recovering from freshwater discharges necessary in the fall following heavy rains from tropical systems.

Lake Okeechobee is 15.01 feet above sea level, which is just under the comfort level of the Army Corps of Engineers, which likes to keep the lake between 12.5 and 15.5 feet above sea level.

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