Florida is best known for its surf and sunshine but lately it is making headlines for all of the wrong reasons. Currently, the sunshine state is in the middle of a heat wave and drought of biblical proportions that has been ongoing since early October 2010. As a result of the dry and hot condition, Florida is also experiencing an above average forest and brush fire season. Florida fires are currently burning throughout the state and this is worsening the ongoing drought conditions.
The northern portion of Florida’s Everglades National Park and its endangered snail kites are leaving their nests all the way from Kissimmee’s River area all the way to Lake Okeechobee. Florida’s Marshes are cracking and evaporating into lifeless mud landscapes that look more like the landscape of a far away planet then Florida’s wetlands.
However, an even more frightening event is taking place. Florida’s historic Lake Okeechobee is disappearing. As of the 6th of June, 2011, the lake level hit 9.81 feet below its average depth and with no rain in sight the situation is only getting worse. Homes that were previously lakefront property are now several yards from the water’s edge. The low lake levels are also causing an impact on boating, fishing as well as other water related activities that Florida residents have grown accustom to.
The National Weather Service says that lake levels are expected to continue dropping unless there is a sudden change in atmospheric conditions. Lake Okeechobee’s levels have dipped to their lowest depth since mid 2008 with lake levels dipping below 10 feet above sea level.
The areas relief reservoir can facilitate 5 million citizens and as of Wednesday it is at 9.81 feet, which is 3.32 feet below normal and is rapidly approaching a record low 8.82 feet which was set in 2007. That record has still not been broken.
Lake Okeechobee is also an important part of the local economy as well as being one of the main sources of drinking water for the surrounding areas. Residents living in the communities of Palm Beach, West Palm Beach and South Palm Beach have been forced to tap into their water reserves in an effort to maintain all of their essential water related systems such as drinking water and fire hydrants operational.