Florida drought sparks wildfires and water shortages

Photo: U.S. Drought MonitorPhoto: U.S. Drought Monitor

It seems a cruel irony that only last month California’s drought was declared over, and now on the other side of the country Florida’s drought conditions have worsened.

According the U.S. Drought Monitor, 66 percent of the state is in a drought and a portion of the state north of Lake Okeechobee is now listed under “extreme” drought, which is the second most severe level.

The state hasn’t had a serious drought since 2006-2008 and meteorologists are not predicting any relief in the next few weeks. A serious lack of precipitation have been ongoing for several months now and locations like Tampa have only seen around five inches of rain compared to the average 10 inches.

Florida is the exception when it comes to drought right now in the country. Less than five percent of the U.S. is in a drought, which is the lowest percentage it has been in at least the past 17 years.

The lack of rain has resulted in water shortages in several areas. The water-shortage orders that have been sent out are merely warnings for possible mandatory cutbacks that could follow. Residents have been requested to increase their voluntary water-conservation efforts and to mind the year-round yard irrigation rules.

Similar to the Southeast’s recent drought, Florida has also experienced rampant wildfires lately and they have burned four-and-a-half times more acreage under state jurisdiction than the same time last year.

Since January, the Florida Forest Service reports there have been more than 1,940 fires and total number of state acres burned is 95,007. Burn bans have been put in place for the majority of the state, except of the Panhandle, which received bountiful rain over the winter.

Florida’s governor Rick Scott declared a state of emergency in April because of the spreading wildfires.

Yet some aren’t that concerned, waiting for Florida’s wet season to start in late May and carry all the way into October.  While it’s nice to be optimistic, it’s also a good idea to go ahead and conserve water where you can.

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