Forecast rain unlikely to dent critical drought

Published: Wednesday, January 7, 2009 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, January 7, 2009 at 8:13 a.m.

Much of North Florida could get some rain today but not enough to help the Santa Fe Basin recover from an extreme shortfall. And it appears unlikely that the aquifer will be refilled much at all until at least the spring.

National Weather Service meteorologist Angie Enyedi said the forecast includes a 60 to 65 percent chance of rain today, which could amount to a quarter inch of rainfall in some places.

"The rainfall will be mainly during the morning and early afternoon as a result of a cold front coming through," Enyedi said

"This will be a fast-moving system and typically the ones that move fastest don't bring a lot of rain. This will not be a soaker by any means."

The seasonal outlook through March includes more dry days with below normal rain chances, Enyedi said.

"We expect to remain in a neutral pattern," Enyedi said.

"There is not a strong upper level pattern to steer a lot of strong fronts and storm systems our way."

The seasonal forecast is a disappointment to the Suwannee River Water Management District staff. They were hopeful that a wet winter could help recharge the aquifer in the Santa Fe River basin.

Water resources engineer Megan Wetherington said most sites measured in the Santa Fe basin show aquifer levels in the below normal category but not at the lowest points ever recorded.

"We have an ongoing rainfall deficit in the Santa Fe basin," Wetherington said. "If you consider the last three years, some areas are missing up to 50 inches of water. The expectation is that 54 inches of rain will fall in the basin each year, so yes, we are missing about a year's worth of rain over the past three years."

Wetherington said that while tropical systems are known for dumping large quantities of rain in relatively short periods of time, winter rains are a preferred method for recharging the aquifer.

"We get more bang for our buck with winter rains because the rain that falls in the winter is more effective. It's not lost to heat or taken up by vegetation so it can have a direct impact on aquifer level almost immediately."

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