Start with a steady drumbeat of showers, toss in a tropical storm, and you get a record start to Florida's annual rainy season.
On Wednesday, the Florida Climate Center reported the state shattered a century-old (plus) May rainfall record set in 1895 with 9.23 inches of precipitation. At Miami International Airport, where Miami's tally is officially totaled, gauges measured the fourth wettest May ever with 16.59 inches, said Florida State University State Climatologist David Zierden. Stuart topped the list statewide with a soggy 24.22 inches.
"Two mid latitude systems started the ball rolling and Alberto really reinforced these heavy totals," Zierden said. "This is the start of the summer rainy season, but it's not really a typical start."
Across the state, some areas saw three to four times normal amounts. Key West shattered a monthly record that has held since 1904. Miami Beach had its third wettest May on record.
"The Alberto event certainly contributed, but it was really part of a larger trend that started Mother’s Day weekend and continued almost uninterrupted through the end of the month," said meteorologist Robert Molleda, warning coordinator for the National Weather Service's Miami office.
Over the next 10 days to two weeks, there's an equal chance for normal and above average rainfall, Molleda said. But for the season ahead, odds are good we'll get more than normal with a 40 percent chance of above average rain.
"We’re not saying it’s a slam dunk by any stretch of the imagination," he said. "But there is a tendency or likelihood that we could end up with above normal rainfall through August."
This is the second year in a row for a dramatic start to the season, good news for a state that had been battling deepening drought conditions and increased wildfires. Zierden said the two systems that preceded Alberto packed the region with moisture. As Alberto rolled up the coast, the preseason tropical system spread heavy rain around South Florida and up the Gulf Coast.
"It means we’re lucky," he said. "When there’s a delay or less than strong start to the rainy season, it can really lead to drought problems or water availability."
On the flip side, too much water can cause problems in places like flood-prone Miami Beach or around Lake Okeechobee, where the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers began releasing water last week to lower lake levels. In the past, the polluted discharges have led to widespread algae blooms along the Treasure Coast and too much oyster-killing freshwater on the west coast. Lake levels on Wednesday reached 14.22 feet, just over a foot shy of the 15.5-foot level the Corps considers dangerous for the lake's aging levees.