TAMPA — What may have been the last gasp of cold came and went over the weekend and West Central Florida now heads into balmy spring days and sunny April skies.
March, though, roared like a damp lion, weather watchers say.
Tampa soaked in 4.95 inches of rain over the 31 days of March, well off the record, but also well above normal.
“It’s about 2 inches above what we normally would see in an average March,” said Andrew McKaughan, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Ruskin.
The record for rain in March was set in 1959 when 12.64 inches fell. The driest March on record was a tie between 1907 and 2006 - both years saw just a trace of rain. Last year, 2.06 inches of rain fell in March.
While March was rainy, the extra precipitation was just catching the area up to normal. Through March, we’ve recorded 8.42 inches of rain, just off the historic average of 8.87. This part of Florida typically gets just over 50 inches of rain a year, but little of that normally comes in April and May.
The Floridan Aquifer is among the beneficiaries of all the March rain. According to the Southwest Florida Water Management District, the aquifer level near Tampa rose to 4.74 feet above sea level, more than a foot higher than the previous week. At the end of March last year, the aquifer was at 1.13 feet above sea level.
The district also said the lake levels around the Tampa region are up by about a foot over what they were last year. The district keeps tabs on 76 lakes around the region and measures their levels based on their lowest level after the dry season. This month, lake levels in and around Tampa averaged a foot above that level, compared with just three inches above last year.
“Water resources continued to improve in March and are normal to above-normal for this time of year,” said Granville Kinsman, manager of the district’s hydrologic data section.
“All indicators of water resource health are positive, with the exception of lake levels outside of the greater Tampa Bay area, which are still recovering from years of below-normal rainfall.”
Rain isn’t expected for the rest of the week, weather service forecasters say.
Skies will be sunny and clear through Thursday with temperatures ranging from the low 60s at night to the low 80s during the day. Thursday, some clouds will roll in, creating a slight chance of showers by the weekend.