Summer-like weather on tap for Memorial Day weekend
The ocean waters are warm, thunderstorms are on the move and the daily highs are hitting the low 90s, all just in time for the unofficial summer kick-off holiday.
Summer-like heat, humidity and rainfall will dominate Southwest Florida's landscape Friday and through the Memorial Day holiday weekend, according to meteorologists from various forecasting outlets.
"We're kind of getting into our summertime pattern, so we're going to have the sea breeze each afternoon and that's going to be the impetus for daily showers and thunderstorms, mostly in the afternoon," said Nicole Carlisle, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Ruskin. "That's going to be the story through the weekend."
Dan Byers, owner of Cabana Dan's beach chair and umbrella rentals on Vanderbilt Beach in North Naples, said he expects people to flock to the beach over the three-day weekend.
Byers said water clarity is great this time of year, and that the public "has been dying to go to the beach."
"Off the whole beach here it's gorgeous," Byers said. "With the southeast winds this time of year and the lack of rain, the back bays aren't flushing, and that keeps the water really clear because there aren't any tannins running into it."
Natural tannins color some coastal waters later in the summer, when rains wash organic debris and pollution off the Southwest Florida landscape.
The water temperature in the Gulf of Mexico was just over 80 degrees Thursday, according to offshore weather sensors monitored by the Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation.
The rainy season started last week, which is good news for a region that's been plagued by drought and fires.
Seasonal rains are also expected to help fill Lake Okeechobee, often referred to as the liquid heart of the historic Everglades.
Lake levels are controlled by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which aims to keep the surface of the lake between 12.5 and 15.5 feet above sea level for flood protection and to supply water for urbanized areas and natural systems like the Caloosahatchee River.
The lake was just above 11 feet above sea level Thursday, according to Army Corps records.
The average monthly temperatures and precipitation totals for Southwest Florida
Although not historically connected, the Caloosahatchee was linked to Lake Okeechobee as a way to drain the Everglades for farming and development.
The weekend should be rather pleasant for boating, outside of the occasional thunderstorm.
NWS in Ruskin, which covers the Fort Myers and Lee County areas, is calling for east to southeast winds around 10 knots with seas of 2 feet or less on the open Gulf of Mexico through Monday off the Lee County coast.
Miami NWS covers Naples and Collier County and is calling for windier conditions there, with gusts up to 20 knots Friday through Monday.
In North Naples, Byers has operated on limited hours in recent months due to virus-related beach restrictions.
"This weekend they're treating Monday as a weekend, and we can open from 9 to 11 (a.m.) and then again at 5 (p.m.) but we're not doing that," Byers said. "We're open for two hours and we rent two chairs, and it's not making payroll. We should be so busy this weekend."
Next week's weather will be similar.
"It's going to be warm and humid," Carlisle said. "We're looking at upper 80s and lower 90s next week."
Connect with this reporter: @ChadGillisNP on Twitter.