Most of South Florida is now at a high risk of seeing wildfires, and some water supplies are lower than normal, as moderate drought conditions have spread across Broward and Miami-Dade counties.
Palm Beach County, which received enough rain to escape drought, is considered "abnormally dry," and on the brink, said meteorologist Barry Baxter, of the National Weather Service in Miami.
"We may have to expand the moderate drought designation into Palm Beach County if we don't get enough rain in next week or so," he said.
Blame persistent high pressure over the state for blocking approaching cold fronts and rain showers. The long-term outlook for the next two months: "Near to below normal rainfall," Baxter said.
There is a small chance of heavy rain by the middle of next week, potentially washing away drought conditions altogether. But for now "confidence is low" in that long-range forecast, Baxter said.
Since Nov. 1, or the beginning of the dry season, West Palm Beach has recorded a rain deficit of 12.17 inches, Fort Lauderdale 10.46 inches and Miami 7.63 inches.
As of Friday, the water reservoir level in Broward County was about half a foot below normal, while the level in Palm Beach was about a half a foot above normal and in Miami-Dade about normal. Lake Okeechobee, the region's backup water supply, was about half a foot below normal.
The South Florida Water Management District urges residents to continue conserving water and has imposed year-round lawn-sprinkling restrictions, limiting it to twice a week in Broward and Miami-Dade counties and three times a week in most of Palm Beach County.
Scott Peterich, Forest Service spokesman, said conditions are ripe for wildfires because of low humidity and a strong breeze. He said Forest Service firefighters battled a blaze in Homestead that consumed 51 acres and threatened six homes last weekend.
"With the winds, fire could spread very easily," he said.
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