Posted: 9:57 am Monday, February 14th, 2011

Palm Beach County now in “extreme” drought 

By Eliot Kleinberg

It’s a weather word you never want to hear: “extreme.”

Drought conditions in coastal Palm Beach County have been bumped from “severe” to “extreme,” the National Weather Service’s Miami office said in a posting on Friday.

It said “High pressure has been mostly in control across South Florida for the first half of February,” except for a cold front Thursday and Friday that brought some scattered rainfalls and totals of 1 to 2 inches in northern Palm Beach County but only a quarter to a half inch elsewhere.

Even with that, “there is still a long term deficit over the area,” the summary said.

Rainfall at Palm Beach International Airport now is nearly a foot below normal since the dry season started and some 17 inches below normal since the start of the wet season back in June  2010.

That high pressure will keep South Florida mostly dry this week, and the outlook for the next eight to 14 days is for below-normal rainfall.

And there’s a 60 to 70 percent chance that Florida will get below-normal rainfall and that “persistent” drought conditions, with an accompanying high fire danger, will be in place until the wet season starts in May. weather service meteorologist Barry Baxter said in a video summary posted this weekend.

Underground water reservoirs in Palm Beach County were running about 0.7 feet below normal and Lake Okeechobee was about 12.4 feet, some 2.2 feet below normal for this time of year, the summary said.

The Keetch-Byram Drought Index, which measures soil dryness on a 1-to-800- scale. placed Palm Beach County in the “moderate” range of 550 to 600.

Keetch-Byram Drought Index (0 to 800)
Statewide 242 Low
Okeechobee Region 496 Moderate
Palm Beach County 556 Moderate
Martin County 570 Moderate
St. Lucie County 545 Moderate
Indian River County 467 Moderate
Okeechobee County 515 Moderate
Broward County 611 Moderate
Miami-Dade County 523 Moderate
Monroe County 471 Moderate

Rainfall totals:

Site Oct. 1-Feb. 14 +/- normal Feb. 14-June 1 +/- normal
Palm Bch Intl Arpt 7.12 -11.83 32.28 -16.88
Belle Glade 3.98 -5.01 33.38 -7.29
Immokalee 4.55 -6.14 22.01 -10.71
Ft. Laud/Hwd Intl Arpt 6.39 -11.31 42.31 -7.91
Miami Intl Arpt 7.69 -6.76 46.89 1.08
Clewiston 3.86 -6.18 23.69 -12.52
Moore Haven 5.81 -4.58 30.68 -10.22

Source: National Weather Service