July shaping up to be among Gainesville's soggiest


A pedestrian waits in the rain to cross SW 13th Street in Gainesville, Fla., Wednesday, July 24, 2013.

Erica Brough/Gainesville Sun
Published: Thursday, July 25, 2013 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, July 24, 2013 at 5:51 p.m.

This July could be ranked one of the five wettest in Gainesville history.

Gainesville has had 12.69 inches of rain this month, said Mike McAllister, a forecaster from the National Weather Service in Jacksonville. That is 6.62 inches more than normal.

The record amount of rainfall in July was in 1909 with 16.41 inches of rain, he said, noting that becoming one of the five wettest Julys this month is not out of the question.

David Donnelly, emergency management director for Alachua County Fire Rescue, said the state has been plagued by an unusual weather pattern this month, with frequent low-pressure troughs over the state.

It has rained all but five days in July, Donnelly said — with 2.49 inches of rain falling over a two-day span between July 10-11 There have been seven days with an inch of rain or more, he said.

There has not been much significant flooding, Donnelly said. On Tuesday on Newberry Road, there was some sporadic flooding because the ground was saturated, but it was not long-term, he said.

"If there's a tropical storm, flooding could be more of an issue," Donnelly said.

Data from the Suwannee River Water Management District shows that the Santa Fe River is already a shade above flood stage at Three Rivers Estates, a low-lying area near where the Ichetucknee and Santa Fe rivers converge in southern Columbia County.

Flood stage there is 19 feet mean sea level, and the river was at 19.25 feet on Wednesday. It could rise another 6 inches this week.

Meanwhile, the Santa Fe at Fort White could rise another foot but is not expected to flood, according to the district.

An idle-speed, no-wake zone is in effect on the Santa Fe from O'Leno State Park to the Suwannee River and is being enforced by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

Donnelly said there have been a couple of fallen trees, with one falling on a house Tuesday.

Alachua County arborist Steven Kabat said he has received a few reports of downed trees. Kabat said no particular species of trees is more susceptible to crashing down in saturated conditions. The bigger factors, he said, are the amount of water in the ground and the wind.

"It's more location-related as opposed to tree-related. Any big tree that can catch more wind and that is in a low-lying area — especially in hurricane conditions, the ground can turn into a soup with that movement and the tree is more likely to fall over," Kabat said. "I've seen live oaks fall over, laurel oaks, red maples — just about any species. Any tree in a low-lying area has a better chance of falling over once the soil gets saturated."

Frank Beazlie, Gainesville Regional Utilities' systems operations manager, said there have been 73 total reportable power outages in Gainesville in July. There have been 29 major outages, where 25 or more customers were affected.

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