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Heavy rain predicted

A return to Florida normalcy means daily rain showers - and sinkholes - but better boating and greener greens.

By JORGE SANCHEZ, Times Staff Writer

© St. Petersburg Times, published June 24, 2002

A return to Florida normalcy means daily rain showers -- and sinkholes -- but better boating and greener greens.

INVERNESS -- People who lived in this region before the drought recognize this as a typical Florida summer, with regular afternoon rains.

The current weather pattern is a potent rainmaker. One low pressure system is stacked on another, weather forecasters said. The upper level system in the Gulf of Mexico creates circular winds that suck in the lower level system from the east coast. This lower level system is laden with rain clouds.

The pattern started Friday and continued through the weekend, forecasters said. Heavy rainfall is predicted today and Tuesday.

The rain has had noticeable effects. Lawns are growing and green. The county lifted its burn ban earlier this week. Even the underground aquifer has moved up a bit.

According to reports by the Southwest Florida Water Management District, or Swiftmud, June has been a typical rainy month.

Some parts of Citrus County have already received more than the average monthly amount of rain. The Swiftmud rain gauge at Holder had recorded 7.5 inches through Friday. The historic monthly average for June is 7.3 inches.

"The rains have been heavier in the inland areas than in the coastal regions," said Michael Molligan, Swiftmud spokesman.

The rainy months of June through September account for about 60 percent of the average yearly rainfall of nearly 54 inches.

The effects of last year's drought are still being felt. Molligan said area lake levels are still low, and the underground water supply is about 1.8 feet below normal.

"We haven't recovered from the rainfall deficit, but we're better than we were last year," Molligan said.

Golf courses certainly have benefited from summer rains.

The greens at Twisted Oaks in Beverly Hills, for example, were described as "lush" by golf course director Rich Aaron.

"We'd been waiting on the rains for quite a while," Aaron said. "It had gotten to a point where the grass wasn't growing at all."

The rains have meant less sprinkling for golf courses.

"We're hardly turning them (the sprinklers) on at all," Aaron said.

Low water levels can thwart boaters who seek access to smaller lakes and canal systems. At the Moonrise Resort, where many guests enjoy boating in the Floral City pool of the Tsala Apopka lake chain, the recent rains haven't done much yet to improve the lake level, owner Mike Friddle said.

But the rain has helped inspire would-be green thumbs. The county has gone "from brown to green, which makes a big difference to us. The psychology is different," said Steve Dearborn, owner of Anson Nursery in Lecanto.

Anson has received about 3.5 inches of rain this month, about half what it typically registers in June, Dearborn said.

"We're pretty much on schedule."

On a less positive note, the rain also has been helping sinkholes. In Hernando County alone, nine sinkholes opened June 14 after about 5 inches of rain fell overnight. The biggest was about 40 feet wide and 50 feet deep.

Earlier this month, in Orlando, a 60-foot-deep sinkhole threatened two apartment buildings.

-- Times staff writer Jim Ross contributed to this report.

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