Manatee's rainy season a "drought-breaker," water management official says

skennedy@bradenton.comOctober 6, 2012 

MANATEE -- The summer rainy season, punctuated by tropical storms, brought above-normal rainfall that has helped the area recover after years of drought, officials said Friday.

In Manatee County, total rainfall was 35.5 inches over the four-month rainy season, which lasts from June to September; the historic average normally is 32.6 inches, said Robyn Felix, a spokeswoman for the Southwest Florida Water Management District.

Many lakes, rivers and aquifers have recovered after years of drought conditions, she said.

Rainy season rainfall totals showed above-normal averages across the district, a 16-county area that includes Manatee County, Felix said.

"This summer was a drought-breaker for us," said Granville Kinsman, SWFWMD's hydrologic data manager. "Areas north of the Tampa Bay area especially saw major improvements."

Some lakes in the northern region rose more than four feet, officials said.

June, in particular, saw significantly above-normal totals, mostly due to tropical storms, Felix said.

"Debby was the main storm that brought us the most rain," she said.

"June rainfall helped erase the rainfall deficit we had from the winter and spring, and we continued to get good summer rainfall for the next few months, that helped in a long-term recovery of water resources," she added.

Even October has seen unusual amounts of rainfall, she said.

"The rainfall we've been getting this week is pretty unusual," Felix said. "Normally, we get only 3 inches of rain for the entire month of October, and most areas have already recorded 1-3

inches," she said.

Manatee County has already officially received 2.5 inches for the month of October, she said.

Predictions for the winter months are calling for "El Niño" conditions, which could mean more above-normal levels of rainfall, she said.

However, a National Weather Service meteorologist said it's not a slam dunk for El Niño, which is a climatic condition associated with water temperatures in the Pacific ocean.

"It's looking like a weak El Niño, which may not have much effect," said the meteorologist, Paul Close.

"We may get some rain, but it may not be as much as needed," he said.

Sara Kennedy, Herald reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7031. Follow her on Twitter @sarawrites.com.

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