Downpours may temporarily ease troubling trend in Florida

Courtney Travis
·5 min read

Rain and thunderstorms will continue to soak Florida, putting a damper on plans and even leading to some dangers like frequent lightning and flash flooding this week. And even though AccuWeather meteorologists say a large amount of rain may fall over a very short period of time, leading to localized problems, the pattern change will also bring some benefits.

It has been an exceptionally soggy spring across many areas of the southeastern United States so far in 2021. In addition to many severe weather incidents from the Mississippi River to the Carolina coastline, drenching rain has hit much of the area.

Cities such as Birmingham and Mobile, Alabama, have had more than double the normal amount of rainfall since March 15, and New Orleans has had four times the normal amount of rain in the same time period.

Excessive rainfall amounts poured down, wth some areas enduring 6-10 inches of rain in the three days ending on Friday morning, April 16, 2021. (AccuWeather)

Unrelenting rain that hammered the central Gulf Coast last week finally began to shift farther to the south and east on Saturday. Wet weather returned to portions of the Florida Panhandle, one part of the Sunshine State that has picked up a fair share of rainfall.

Pensacola, Florida has picked up a total of 10.09 inches of rain since April 8, while Panama City, Florida, has picked up a total of 10.39 inches of rain since then. This much rain is already over twice the normal rainfall for the entire month of April and makes up half of the rainfall these cities have received so far this year.

Drenching thunderstorms spread across northern Florida as the weekend progressed, targeting locations from Jacksonville and Gainesville southward to Orlando and Tampa by Sunday afternoon.

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The repeated rounds of rain through Wednesday are likely to deliver several inches of rainfall across the area. An AccuWeather Local StormMax™ of 10 inches is possible by Wednesday afternoon.

Anyone stepping outdoors in these areas will likely want to have the raincoats and umbrellas handy through the first half of the week.

Downpours may be enough to lead to ponding on the roadways and bring reduced visibility for motorists. Flash flooding is also possible, especially in low-lying areas.

"Too much rain may fall at once and lead to flooding problems," AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Alex Sosnowski said. "The excessive rainfall may set into motion the risk of sinkholes in a region that has had a history of trouble with the geological phenomenon."

It is possible that a few thunderstorms accompanying the rain could also bring a couple of locally stronger wind gusts.

Overall, however, the rainfall is likely to be beneficial across central and southern parts of Florida.

These parts of the Sunshine State have mostly been missed by the wet weather that has pummeled much of the southeastern U.S. so hard this past month. As such, central and southern Florida has been left quite parched.

Almost 50 percent of the state of Florida is facing "abnormally dry" conditions, which is a step below moderate drought, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor. A small corridor in the southern part of the state is in the grips of a moderate drought.

This may come as a surprise to some after heavy thunderstorms drenched parts of the Florida Peninsula last weekend, producing dozens of damaging storm reports and even breaking some long-standing daily rainfall records, according to the National Weather Service office in Tampa.

"The southern two-thirds of Florida is running unusually dry now, right at the time when we have the annual peak of the wildfire season in the state," AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Brett Anderson said.

"This week's rainfall should greatly reduce the fire risk for the remainder of the month across central Florida," he said, and that will be before the arrival of the state's wet season, which usually begins in May.

Not every location that could use the rain will be so lucky. The bulk of much-needed rainfall will likely bypass extreme south Florida.

"Unfortunately, much of southern Florida, including the Everglades, is also quite dry, with only 25 to 50 percent of normal rainfall since the start of the year," added Anderson.

Naples, Florida, is one such location, which, as of the middle of April, has fallen well short of normal rainfall amounts. The city has reported only 2.89 inches of rain this year, a mere 37 percent of normal.

Without the aid of several rounds of rain, the abnormally dry to moderate drought conditions are likely to continue, keeping the fire risk elevated in the far southern parts of Florida into early May.

However, that could all change after hurricane season arrives on June 1. The AccuWeather teams of long-range and tropical meteorologists are concerned about another above-average year in terms of hurricanes for the Atlantic basin. The 2020 season was the most active on record, and 12 named storms made landfall in the U.S.

"Signals for the 2021 hurricane season point toward most of the impacts in Florida, along the U.S. East Coast, and South Texas," AccuWeather Lead Long-Range Forecaster Paul Pastelok said.

"We will have to watch for the risk of excessive rain to shift farther to the east along the Gulf Coast during the balance of the spring to early summer, which goes along with concerns for tropicals systems in that region," Pastelok said.

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