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Rains leave puddles aplenty

Soggy weather opens up more sinkholes in Spring Hill. Meanwhile, the county steps up mosquito spraying.

By ROBERT KING, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published July 2, 2002


In case you didn't notice, June was a very wet month.

In Weeki Wachee, the official rain total was just shy of 13 inches -- the most in any June since the National Weather Service began recording rainfall amounts there in 1969.

Just north of Brooksville, at Chinsegut Hill, the weather service recorded more than 12 inches of rain, making it one of the wettest Junes in the last 20 years.

At Istachatta, the University of Florida's rain gauge near the Sumter County line picked up nearly 17 inches. That's a new record. But then the gauge there has been operating for only 21/2 years.

Of course, you didn't need rain gauges or records to notice the June dousing.

People who struggled to grow anything during the desertlike months of spring now find the world a greener place.

A month ago, you might have been able to survive a short trip outside without bug spray. Now, with plenty of standing water around, legions of mosquitoes have emerged to make such dashes fraught with peril.

In response, the county has stepped up its mosquito spraying and unleashed thousands of mosquito-eating fish in ponds and ditches, said Dr. Guangye Hu, Hernando County's mosquito control manager.

And, on a darker note, the recent torrents opened up a new round of sinkholes in Spring Hill. In some places, there were isolated instances of flooding.

Mostly, though, the rains have been welcomed.

Groundwater levels that had dropped perilously low are already starting to catch up.

Depending on the area, they have risen anywhere from 18 inches to 3 feet in the past three weeks, said Granville Kinsman, manager of the hydrologic data section for the Southwest Florida Water Management District.

Though the aquifer remains more than a foot below normal, there's a chance it could be back to normal by summer's end, he said.

"It's definitely helping," Kinsman said. "We are starting to see water levels come up in the aquifer."

The Withlacoochee River, which had been so withered that canoe trips had involved hiking across dry patches of river bed, is picking up considerably.

The Withlacoochee's water level is up by more than a foot since mid June, Kinsman said. More impressively, its flow rate -- the amount of water moving between the banks -- has more than doubled in the past couple of weeks, Kinsman said.

The source of all the rain, said weather service meteorologist Russell Henes, has been a steady flow of moisture from the tropics that has been funneled across Florida by an upper level low unusual for this time of year.

Weatherspeak translation: It's been raining hard. A lot.

-- Robert King can be reached at 754-6127. Send e-mail to rking@sptimes.com.

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