For all the seemingly diluvian rains of the last 24 hours over Flagler County–and some localized flooding–the area remains in drought conditions, Troy Harper, the county’s emergency operations director, said this afternoon. “We’re still in drought and we’ll still be for a while,” he said.
By then the bulk of the rain had fallen, drenching the area of Bunnell around the county’s Emergency Operations Center in just over 7 inches, the most in the county, and parts of Palm Coast in more than 4 inches. The National Weather Service had issued a flood warning for parts of the county. The parking lot at Flagler Palm Coast High School, for example, turned into a bit of a pool. There was localized flooding, but no homes or businesses were directly affected.
The county’s EOC summed up the day’s issues this way:
- At 8 a.m., water over the road was reported by the Flagler Beach Police Department at various points on State Road A1A, including North 6th, North 15th, and South 13th Streets. The south lane on a portion of A1A was also closed this afternoon because of power line issues.
- A flood advisory was issued at 9:30 a.m., upgraded to a flood warning at 10:49 a.m., and in effect until 12:45 p.m.
- Water over the road was reported at 10:30 a.m. between Candleberry and Satinwood in Daytona North (the Mondex).
- Water over the road was reported at 10:38 a.m. at Woodbury Drive and Pine Lakes Parkway in Palm Coast.
- A washout making the road impassable was reported by the Flagler County Sheriff’s Office just before 1 p.m. in the 3800 Block of Old Haw Creek Road, a dirt road. That was repaired.
By 3 p.m. emergency operations reported all roads open unless hampered by traffic crashes.
But with 19 days left in the 2011 calendar, the year’s total rainfall is still 30 percent below the average of 50 to 52 inches of normal rainfall for the area. There’d been 31 inches to date, officially, before this morning’s rains. That creates short-term and long-term problems, Harper said. In the short term, less rainfall over the year means vegetation will be affected. Drier weather, especially combined with freezes, heightens fire conditions, and may precipitate the fire season, which saw brush fires last year as early as December, and intensified into the worst fire season in Flagler in 13 years, peaking in June. The county has not experienced particularly severe tropical storms that might have erased the precipitation deficit.
In the long term, persistent drought means that the aquifer is not getting replenished as much as it should be, which opens the region to potential water shortages in the distant future.
La Nina, which typically lasts from one to three years, is making matters worse, though no specific storm can be directly attributed to the phenomenon. La Nina is the cooling phase of ocean surface temperatures in the Pacific. It occurs every three to five years. From August to October, that may lead to increased hurricane activity in the Atlantic Ocean. “A majority of the models predict a weak or moderate strength La Niña to continue through the Northern Hemisphere winter,” the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration says, “and then gradually weaken after peaking during the December – January period.”
But less rain and warmer weather is expected over the next few weeks: “During December 2011 – February 2012, there is an increased chance of above-average temperatures across the south-central and southeastern U.S.,” NOAA reports, “below-average temperatures over the western and north-central U.S. Also, above-average precipitation is favored across the northern tier of states, excluding New England, and drier-than-average conditions are more likely across the southern tier of the U.S.”
Tonight in Flagler, some showers are expected to continue through tomorrow, but only intermittently so. By tomorrow evening, the area will see mostly clear skies and cool temperatures.