Wet summer predicted for South Florida

Though the previous washed-out weekend might have suggested otherwise, South Florida’s rainy season has not yet begun — at least officially.

But when it does start sometime this month, expect it to be a bit wetter than normal, forecasters and water managers said Thursday.

South Florida’s wet season, which usually begins around May 20 and runs until mid-October, typically produces about 70 percent of the regional rainfall. Those five months help keep the Everglades healthy and water supplies recharged or — if the rains don’t show — produce droughts that kill crops and lawns.

Robert Molleda, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service’s Miami office, said a number of indicators, including the easing of the global La Niña weather pattern, point to a wetter season into June. The remaining months appear likely to be close to average.

With the region still showing lingering effects from an unusually dry fall and winter, a bit more rain would help, said Susan Sylvester, chief of water control operations for the South Florida Water Management District, which oversees the water supply for 7.7 million people from Orlando to Key West.

Above-average April rainfall, much of it delivered last weekend, helped Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties but only provided a bit of recharge for Lake Okeechobee, which serves as the region’s water barrel.

Overall, the 16-county district’s rainfall deficit since November is about 5.5 inches. Lake Okeechobee was at 11.63 feet above sea level Thursday, about two feet below its average mark for the date.

The typical wet season produces about 35 inches of rain but one tropical storm or hurricane can easily push the figure higher.