Drought conditions persist inland while Southwest coast has been getting drenched

Chad Gillis
Fort Myers News-Press

From drought to drenched. 

That sums up the weather pattern of the past few weeks as Collier County and much of South Florida morphed from moderate drought conditions to soaked in a matter of days. 

"What a difference a week makes," said Melinda Avni, with the Florida Forestry Service. "We've gone from rather arid to almost saturated soil. The drought index for Collier is below 200, so we have very, very saturate soil." 

The rating Avni referred to is called the Keetch-Byram Drought Index and is a tool forestry managers use to measure the level of moisture in the soil. It ranges from 0 for extremely wet conditions to 750 for unusually dry periods. 

Drought conditions are shown across much of South Florida on this Florida Forestry Service map. A new report will be issued Thursday.

Lee, Manatee and Sarasota all scored in the 300s on the most recent index report, and Charlotte County was a little wetter and scored in the 200s on the drought scale. 

The rain helped lower the threat of wildfires, which can break out during any time of year but are more prominent during the dry season. 

"We got about a week's worth of rain, and that's what we needed," Avni said. 

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Still, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) maps show most of Collier and areas south of Lake Okeechobee as being in a moderate drought through June 15. 

Drought conditions also impacted Glades, Hendry, Palm Beach, Broward, Martin, Miami-Dade and Monroe counties, according to NOAA records. 

NOAA will release its next drought index Thursday.

The rainy season started off with a boom in some places, as Fort Myers smashed the June 2 record for precipitation when nearly 5 inches fell at Page Field Airport. 

That same day, Naples Airport recorded zero rain, and the drought conditions there persisted.  

So far this month, 6.7 inches of rain, on average, has fallen across Lee and western Collier counties, according to the South Florida Water Management District. 

That's about 0.4 inches below average for this point in the month. 

But water management district records show the region is 7 inches below normal for the calendar year after experiencing several months of abnormally dry and moderate drought conditions. 

The short-term forecast is pretty typical for June, according to the National Weather Service. 

"We've got scattered showers and thunderstorms through the next week and it looks like a generally easterly wind regime in the morning, which would create our typical afternoon thunderstorms with the onshore breeze," said Jennifer Hubbard, an NWS meteorologist. "So it's a pretty typical pattern for the summer through the next week." 

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But the rain hasn't been distributed equally across South Florida. 

While coastal counties are seeing typical summer rains, inland areas like LaBelle and Immokalee are still relatively dry. 

"Last week we didn't hardly get any rain," said Gene McAvoy, with the University of Florida IFAS office in Immokalee. "For the entire week Immokalee might have had an inch-and-a-half. The ponds and ditches are as low as they ever get. And normally June is our wettest month, but it won't be this year." 

Connect with this reporter: @ChadEugene on Twitter.