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Record Rain Fell Tuesday in Parts of Florida

May 18, 2016

Tuesday’s rain rewrote the record books in many Florida cities. Vero Beach's official reporting station received 11.22 inches of water, making May 17, 2016 the largest 24-hour rain event ever observed at this location.  Daytona Beach set a record daily maximum of 3.12", almost doubling the previously amount of 1.59" in 2010. Melbourne also joined the ranks, where the 2.99 inches broke the 1943 record of 0.6".

Here are the top ten 24-hour totals, as reported by observers with the Community, Collaborative Rain, Hail and Snow Network.

  1. Vero Beach - 12.67"
  2. Lakewood Park - 11.20"
  3. Fort Pierce - 9.21"
  4. Sebastian - 6.27"
  5. Frostproof - 6.20"
  6. La Belle - 5.80"
  7. Sebring - 5.80 "
  8. Moore Haven - 5.00"
  9. Palm Bay - 4.84"
  10. Melbourne - 4.51"

Why the Heavy Rain

A group of thunderstorms organized into what’s called a Mesoscale Convective System (MCS) over the eastern Gulf of Mexico Tuesday morning. A weak area of low pressure was spawn from the MCS, which further enhanced the ability for it to produce widespread thunderstorm activity and heavy rain. Meteorologist Jeff Huffman made reference to this on Twitter, pointing out that this is similar to what occurs over the Atlantic Ocean during hurricane season when a tropical cyclone is born.

An Atlantic sea breeze added lift to an already existing unstable environment along Florida's Treasure Coast (where much of the record rain fell). The sea breeze was nearly stationary for several hours, allowing multiple thunderstorms to form or slowly move over the same areas for several hours. This fell in addition to (and before) the large area of rain associated with the MCS moved through later Tuesday evening.

Much-Needed Rain for Some

Drought Monitor State-FPBS-small

South Florida received the heaviest rainfall, but North Florida also received significant amounts. Considering many locations were in a deficit for the spring, the soaking rain was welcome news for cities like Lake City (2.38”), The Villages (1.72”), and Gainesville (1.51”). The United States Department of Agriculture Drought Monitor Index noted that abnormally dry conditions had been observed across portions of North-Central Florida on May 10. We expect those conditions to wain in light of the recent and projected rain.


More Rain on the Way

Rainfall Forecast-FPBS-smallAn additional one to three inches of rain is forecast to fall between Wednesday and early Sunday for most of the peninsula, with the highest totals likely occurring across the already water-logged areas of South Florida. In addition to the sea breeze showers and thunderstorms that will likely fire up each day, an approaching front will funnel deeper moisture in off the Gulf of Mexico and lead to more widespread rain late Friday and Saturday.

Has the Rainy Season Begun?

The recent heavy rain likely has many Floridians wondering if the annual rainy season has arrived early. It typically starts during the last week of May in South Florida and around the first few days of June further north. The front moving through Saturday is forecast to allow much drier air to sweep across the peninsula Sunday and Monday, effectively shutting down the rain chances for several days. It won’t be until there is a notable absence of these type of fronts and a persistent pattern of sea breeze showers and thunderstorms that we can officially declare that Florida’s rainy season has begun.


Sources include nearest National Weather Service office, National Hurricane Center, and the Florida Public Radio Emergency Network (@FloridaStorms).
Sources include nearby emergency management agencies, FEMA, and your local NPR affiliate. 
Sources include the Florida Department of Transportation, Florida Highway Patrol and other nearby traffic information.

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Partners of the Florida Public Radio Emergency Network include: Florida's Division of Emergency Management, WDNA (Miami), WFIT (Melbourne), WMFE (Orlando), WFSU (Tallahassee), WGCU (Fort Myers), WJCT (Jacksonville), WKGC (Panama City), WLRN (Miami), WMNF (Tampa-Sarasota), WQCS (Fort Pierce), WUFT (Gainesville-Ocala), WUSF (Tampa), WUWF (Pensacola) and Florida Public Media.

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