Lake Okeechobee, USA — Water levels in dried-out Lake Okeechobee match ahistoric low set in 2001, while firefighters battle a blaze burning on part ofthe exposed lake bottom.
The South Florida Water Management District expects the record of almost ninefeet from May 24, 2001, to evaporate by Thursday as the region’s worst knowndrought continues. The average water level for this time of year should bearound 13 feet.
Fire officials say the blaze started Monday in the vegetation left to dry inthe sun as the lake waters receded from its northwest rim.
The cause of the fire is not known. It’s about 75-percent contained, but onlyseparated from a Lakeport RV park by a canal. The voluntary evacuations werecalled off when the crew had most of the fire under control.
Officials with the DOF say the fire was likely sparked by human carelessnessand that it will probably take about a week to completely douse the blaze.
“The big concern is definitely tomorrow, we’re going to make sure we canhold this with in the lake boundaries. But it has the potential to increasetomorrow,” said Melissa Yunas of the DOF.
Lake Okeechobee is the primary backup drinking water reservoir for 5 millionpeople in South Florida during dry periods and the lifeblood of the Everglades.
About 75 miles away in Charlotte County, 911 operators have been flooded withcalls about smoke. But DOF officials say the smoky conditions should clear up byThursday.