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Rain Returns to Florida, but Misses Those That Need it the Most

It finally rained in Florida Monday, but the areas that needed it the most missed out.

Many Florida cities have had little or no rain in over a month, resulting in an expansion of drought conditions across most of the Florida Panhandle and sections of North Florida.

Monday's rainfall estimates overlay with the latest U.S. Drought Monitor

A nearby weak weather system triggered numerous rounds of showers and thunderstorms Monday, but they primarily affected areas farther south.

Radar estimates and numerous ground-truth reports indicate that 3 to 5 inches of rain fell over portions of the Jacksonville metro area Monday, with 5.36“ observed at the Mayport Naval Station gauge. Pockets of heavy rain were also observed across the rest of the peninsula from Gainesville to Orlando Monday afternoon. The National Weather Service in Jacksonville tweeted a lengthy list of preliminary reports at 9:15 pm ET.

See Rainfall Reports

Penascola and Tallahassee received no measurable rain at their official climate reporting sites during the month of September. Gainesville had a top 10 driest month. Even places over the Florida Peninsula, which had a wet summer, saw a noticeable drop off in rain during the second half of the month. For example, Orlando, Tampa, Miami, and Fort Myers all officially received between 0.90“ and 1” of rain during that same period. Meanwhile, on Florida’s southwest coast, a measly 0.04“ fell in Naples. All of these numbers are a fraction of what these cities typically receive during late September.

Those who are looking for additional rain in South Florida will likely receive their wish this week, but the wetter pattern will not extend to the areas that need it the most. A weak area of low pressure will move across the southern half of the state Tuesday, while at the same time, a cold front will slowly approach from the north. These two weather systems are forecast to produce anywhere from 1/2“ to as much as 2” of rain over central and southern sections of the Peninsula, according to the latest forecast from NOAA’s Weather Prediction Center.

The center says a few pockets of flash flooding are not out of the question over the metro areas of South Florida through Tuesday, particularly if heavy showers pass over the same areas frequently.

The Florida Panhandle and Big Bend — which need the rain most of all — are expected to have the least in the coming days. The last few drought monitors have seen a notable worsening of the drought conditions. Much of the I-10 corridor is in a “moderate drought”, and pockets of “severe drought” conditions have cropped up near Lake City and Tallahassee based on NOAA’s most recent update.

Rainfall amounts over the next week are projected to be less than 1/2“ in these areas. There is a distinct possibility that a few places will go another week with no rain at all, which would lead to a worsening and expansion of the ongoing drought.

Even though the dominant heat ridge that has been producing record highs over North Florida is flattening and weakening, the upper air winds are forecast to blow from the west over a long distance. These winds effectively cut off the Florida Panhandle from a consistent moisture feed from the Gulf of Mexico. The main storm track from the mid-latitude westerlies is likely to stay well north of the state, which means there are no signs the drought will break any time soon.

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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