On schedule, rainy season arrives in Southwest Florida

6:34 AM, Jun 11, 2012   |    comments
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(News-Press.com) - The daily afternoon showers of Southwest Florida's rainy season are here, and the precipitation could help the state end June with above-average rains.

The rainy season, from June through September, is when Southwest Florida usually gets the bulk of its rainfall. On average, 39 of the 56 inches that fall annually come in those four months.

John McMichael, a forecaster at the National Weather Service in Tampa, said weather patterns had been keeping the usual rains out of this area the past week.

"There was a trough of low pressure over the central Gulf of Mexico," he said, that, combined with a stationary frontal boundary, kept rains central and north in the state.

However, McMichael said, the area is starting to see the normal afternoon and early evening showers, the usual brief but intense spate of rainfall that most area residents can almost set their watches by. Right on schedule, a few of those lightning and thunder storms rumbled through Southwest Florida on Sunday evening.

In addition, some vivid lightning accompanied storms that burst off the Gulf overnight Friday into Saturday.

Eric Oglesby, a hydrologist with the national weather service in Tampa, said June should be wetter than normal.

"We expect the next two weeks will produce an above-normal amount of rainfall," he said, noting the normal afternoon rain pattern should persist the remainder of the month. Weather service forecast maps show rainfall in the next two weeks from 40 to 60 percent more than normal across the state.

Slow to start

Despite the weekend storms, rainfall has lagged the first 10 days of June. The South Florida Water Management District said for its southwest coastal area - most of Lee County and the west half of Collier County - June 1 through June 7 saw 0.66 inches of rain, or about 28 percent of the average rainfall for the period.

Randy Smith, a district spokesman, said the average rainfall for that period is a little more than 2 inches, so the area saw about 1.67 inches less than usual.

The normal total from June 1-9 at Page Field in Fort Myers is 2.37 inches. As of Saturday, the gauges had recorded 1.54 inches. Last year in that period, the gauges recorded 0.02 inches.

At Naples Municipal Airport in Collier County, 1.45 inches had been recorded as of Saturday since June 1, a 0.44-inch departure from the normal 1.89 inches of rain for the period. Last year, no rain fell in that time frame.

A map displaying drought conditions compiled by the National Drought Mitigation Center shows conditions in Southwest Florida range from severe in Charlotte County to moderate and abnormal in Lee and abnormal to no drought in Collier. Some areas in the northern section of the state had been in extreme drought conditions, but floodwaters from weekend rains damaged homes and closed roads throughout the Panhandle.

Drought conditions statewide are expected to improve, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

NOAA's national seasonal drought outlook forecast map shows the majority of the state -- including the Fort Myers area - slated for an improved drought outlook from now to the end of August.

The southern most end of the state, from southern Lee County to the Keys, shows no drought conditions expected this summer, according to the NOAA map.

The weather service's Oglesby said there are no drought conditions in the southern third of the state. He said as long as the weather pattern remains stable, drought conditions across the state should be eliminated.