Rain to Lessen Dry Conditions in Florida

By Vickie Frantz, AccuWeather.com Staff Writer
February 14, 2013; 8:50 AM ET
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This photograph of traffic in the rain is courtesy of Photos.com.

The first week of February left 91.37 percent of Florida rated as abnormally dry by the U.S. Drought Monitor.

For much of the state, the dry conditions have steadily increased since October, when the entire state was rated as having no drought conditions at all.

All of this may change over the next few days as rain makes it way across the state.

"The rain that is now falling in the northern part of Florida will taper off by Thursday morning," said AccuWeather Meteorologist Andy Mussoline. "A band of rain will move over central and southern Florida for most of Thursday and Friday."

Any rain will help improve dry conditions, which is good news when it comes to the risk of wild fires.

The state of Florida experienced 3,007 fires from Jan. 1, 2012 to Dec. 31, 2012. During that time, 67,784 acres of land burned, according to Joe Zwierzchowski, Wildfire Mitigation Specialist with the Blackwater Forestry Center.

"Over the past 6 years, Florida has averaged 151,466 acres burned and 3,500 fires, so 2012 was a better year with less fires," said Zwierzchowski.

Lightning strikes are the cause of a wildfire 25 percent of the time, according to Chipola Forestry Center Wildfire Mitigation Specialist Brian Goddin. The other 75 percent is due to human causes.

"Last year the number one cause of wildfires in Florida was lightning," Goddin said. "Lightning caused 689 wildfires that burned 29,621 acres."

Goddin said another issue he sees in Florida are "prescribed" fires (controlled burns) that get out of control either due to changing weather conditions (wind) or when someone is burning brush in their yard and go inside for a few minutes.

"We have a really strong prescribed fire program," Goddin said. "Prescribed fires are the way we are able to apply fire back into the ecosystem."

Controlled burns are used to clear forestry areas of built up dead organic material like leaves or fallen trees. By removing the materials in a controlled manner, the risk of a lightning strike igniting a large, out-of-control fire is reduced.

According to the U.S. Drought Monitor, The week ending Feb. 5, 2013 showed an increase of a 1.12 percentage point over the previous week. The good news is that only 5.62 percent of the state is considered to be in severe drought condition at this time. This percentage has not changed over the past two weeks.

The peak of the wildfire season in Florida is in April, according to Zwierzchowski.

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