Local News

June's been wet in county but wettest in the south

SEBRING- Depending on where they live, Highlands County residents received from record to above average rainfall in June. The National Weather Service's Ruskin branch monitors rainfall readings in Avon Park and at Archbold Biological Station in Venus. The weather service's June rainfall reading for Avon Park was 13.92 inches but the Archbold's rain gauge showed 20.9 inches for last month, possibly an all-time record, said meteorologist Robert Garcia. Archbold has been keeping records since 1969, and the highest recorded rainfall so far, until this June, was 20.05 inches in August 2006. The jet stream, a fast flowing, river of air found in the atmosphere, has been moving further south, Garcia explained, triggering an aggressive rainfall pattern from the tropics.
That, along with it being the rainy reason, has contributed to a wet June. However, even with all this rain, some county lakes may have not seen a significant rise in some lake levels because the state's aquifer system, the underground storehouse of water, has been depleted from the drought, said Highlands County Assistant Lakes Manager Mike McMillian. From what he's heard, the aquifer could be from 4 to 8 feet below what it should be, he said, explaining why some lake levels may seem to rise, then fall, as the water seeps into the aquifer's limestone and dolomite. "The aquifer is so depleted that it has to catch up," he said. The county's lakes department monitors the readings of five rain gauges set up by Southwest Florida Water Management System -- from Avon Park to Hicoria, in south Highlands County. According to those readings, Avon Park's rain gauge received 10.9 inches of rain in June; Lake June and Lake Josephine's 9.3 inches each; Lake Placid's showed 18.2 inches with the highest seen in Hicoria at 19.2 inches. From the Swiftmud and the National Weather Service readings it appears that the south end of Highlands County received the most rain. McMillian said he couldn't explain why although rainfall in Florida tends to vary from place to place. With the rain coming down, the county lakes department also has been monitoring lake levels. Some lakes like Lake Sebring have a fixed weir or gate where water is automatically released when it crosses a certain level. McMillian said he's heard from the county's lakes manager Clell Ford that Lake Sebring's weir is releasing water. County officials also have been releasing water from Lake June, which is 2 feet higher this year compared to the same time last year, because less of the water has been released so far.