Record-breaking weekend rainfall didn’t douse wildfire, drought worries

Record-breaking weekend rainfall didn’t douse wildfire, drought worries

7 April 2008

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USA — In spite of record-breaking rainfall this past weekend, Southwest Florida’s water and wildfire worries won’t evaporate anytime soon.

But that shouldn’t come as a surprise to area residents, said Gerry J. LaCavera, a wildfire mitigation specialist with Florida Division of Forestry.

“We are working off a multi-year rain deficit,” he said Monday, adding that the state is still in the midst of dry season.

South Florida Water Management District spokeswoman Julie Huber agreed.

“This is no time to let the defenses down,” Huber said Monday. “However, it (the rain) was very welcome and it did help.”

April is usually the driest month of the season, but the Big Cypress Basin in Collier County got an average of 3.12 inches of rain over the weekend — nearly an inch above the usual 2.39 inches it averages for the month.

And the Big Cypress basin wasn’t the only rainfall winner this past weekend.

National Weather Service meteorologist Chuck Caracozza said Naples set a precipitation record of 2.05 inches on Sunday, breaking the previous mark of 1.12 inches set in 1995.

Nearly an inch of rain was recorded in Fort Myers on Sunday. Through Monday, Fort Myers had received 3.03 inches of rainfall in April, compared to 0.02 inches at the same time in 2007 and an average of 0.47 inches during the first week of April, according to data from the National Weather Service.

However, the rain didn’t wash away the fears of another active wildfire season, as the state kicked off Wildfire Awareness Week on Monday.

The second week of April has been designated as Wildfire Awareness Week in recognition of Florida’s devastating 1998 wildfire season, when more than a half-million acres burned and 337 homes and other structures were damaged or destroyed by wildfires statewide.

“March, April and May are usually the most active months of Florida’s year-round wildfire season,” Florida Agriculture and Consumer Services Commissioner Charles Bronson said in a statement Monday. “We have been fortunate in the amount of rainfall we have received up to this point this year, but there is a very good chance that we will see an increase in wildfire activity over the next few months.”

Since the start of the year, 776 wildfires have burned 14,523 acres in Florida. Most of these fires were caused by human carelessness.

LaCavera said he urges residents to be careful and vigilant.

“The rain that we’ve had, very unexpected,” he said. “For right now, things are pretty wet, however it’s South Florida … it only takes a few weeks for it to dry out.”

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