Florida now in 'extreme' drought, feeding rampant wildfires
Monday, May 15, 2017, 1:17 - About two-thirds of Florida and most of southern Georgia are in a drought, according to latest data from the U.S. Drought Monitor.
The agency upgraded areas north of Lake Okeechobee in to the "extreme" drought level, with officials warning for the potential of serious crop loss in that region.
The Sunshine State is also experiencing water shortage issues due to the drought. In mid-April, a water shortage warning was issued to 8.1 million residents from Orlando to the Florida Keys. Several weeks later, continued decreased rainfall amounts and declining hydrological conditions across North Florida prompted the Suwannee River Water Management District to declare a water shortage, as well.
Officials continue to encourage residents and visitors to be mindful of water usage and implement water conservation practices until conditions improve.
"The warning is a proactive step toward increasing water awareness and conservation for the entire district,” district executive director Noah Valenstein said in an inter view with News4Jax. "In times of low rainfall, we are all called to be especially mindful of our water usage to ensure the long-term safety and health of the resource."
While some rain is in the forecast, it's not nearly enough to make any significant changes to current drought conditions.
Wildfires and Drought
A burn ban is in effect for much of the state, with the exception of the Panhandle, which actually saw a surplus of rainfall this winter.
With warmer and drier conditions forecast throughout spring, officials are on high alert for any new fires come summer.
Predictive Services with the National Interagency Fire Center in Boise forecast that the state will have above normal Significant Wildland Fire Potential throughout the rest of May and into June.
Water conservation tips can be found here.