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September rainfall puts water levels close to average

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Published:   |   Updated: October 1, 2013 at 12:27 AM

TAMPA — The summer rainy season officially came to a close on Monday, though forecasters say October could still turn out to be fairly wet. And through all the intense rainstorms over the past month, the aquifer remained in normal range and even is down slightly from last year this time.

Lake levels in the region are only a few drops higher than last September.

Hydrologists with the Southwest Florida Water Management District, the agency that oversees water resources in a 16-county region stretching from Levy County to Charlotte County, say the aquifer level has stayed steady because of the rain the region has gotten over the past month.

The level of the Floridan Aquifer beneath the region that encompasses Hillsborough, Pasco, Pinellas and Polk counties was measured at 3.79 feet above sea level last week. That’s up from 3.55 feet the previous week but down from 4.55 feet in September 2012.

The rainy season officially ended Monday, said Granville Kinsman, manager of the district’s hydrologic data section, though weather patterns seldom obey the turn of a calendar page.

“In October,” he said, “our weather patterns change and we stop getting the regular rainfalls of summer. Because of that, this is the time of the year we start to see water levels peaking for the year; then they slowly decline until the next rainy season begins.”

He said there still could be some strong rains in October and mentioned a tropical depression in the Caribbean Sea that forecasters say could dump a two to three days of steady rain along the Gulf coast of central Florida by the weekend.

The summer rains have left lake levels in Pasco and Hillsborough counties robust, he said.

“Right now, everything looks pretty good,” Kinsman said. “All indicators show the lakes in certain areas are all well within the normal range.”

Average lake levels are measured against the adopted minimum low management levels, which is the level at which the lakes are measured at the end of the dry season each year.

Last month, local lakes were 1.6 feet above that low level, lower than the previous month, which measured 1.7 feet, but higher than the 1.5 feet measured in September last year.

Aquifer and lake levels fluctuate depending on rainfall, and the area has had heavy rain in recent weeks. But in the big picture, the recent rain amounts are about normal for this time of year.

The average rainfall in the region from Sept. 1-25 was 7.3 inches, district records show, only slightly more than the historic average of 7 inches during the first three weeks of September.

Still, the rainfall this year between Jan. 1 and Sept. 25 of 44.3 inches is just over an inch less than the average of 45.5 over the same period. The average yearly rainfall for the central region is 52.3 inches.

Though the rainy season has come to an end, that doesn’t mean it will be arid from here on out, said Richard Garcia, meteorologist with the weather service in Ruskin.

“If we saw two to three inches before the end of the year,” Garcia said, “I wouldn’t be surprised.”

The record for rain in one year was the 76.6 inches that fell in 1959, he said.

kmorelli@tampatrib.com

(813) 259-7760

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