Summer thunderstorms have finally arrived after a lackluster June and early July, but don't expect watering restrictions to ease any time soon.
Parched rivers, lakes and underground aquifers still need a refill. To break the drought, it needs to rain hard and often.
Robyn Hanke, a spokeswoman for the Southwest Florida Water Management District, understands that it can be tough to believe the area is still in a drought when it's pouring rain.
"They think the drought must be over," she said Monday. "But we've gotten below average rainfall for a year and half. It's going to be a long-term process to rebound. We need people to conserve water."
In fact, summer storms mean people should shut off their sprinkling systems altogether, Hanke said. Let lawns rely on nature for a while.
June rainfall averaged about an inch below the 7-inch average, according to gauges the agency monitors all around the Tampa Bay area. Some sections, including St. Petersburg, were particularly dry.
There's a reason, said Jennifer Colson, a meteorologist for the National Weather Service in Ruskin.
Until last week or so, a pressure system that hovers over the western Atlantic known as the Bermuda High remained south of its typical summertime stalking ground.
In the "leg bone is connected to the shin bone" world of global weather patterns, that delayed the buildup of thunderstorms along Florida's west coast.
"We had a lot of scattered thunderstorms into early July," Colson said. "But if you didn't get them by morning, you basically didn't get anything."
Now the Bermuda High has moved back north, and the Weather Service predicts storms and a 50 percent chance of rain for every day this week
The aquifer desperately needs it, Hanke said.
So far this month, Pinellas, Pasco, Hillsborough and Polk counties have averaged 5.18 inches of rain, more than 3 inches shy of normal.
For the year, the Tampa Bay area is almost 9 inches short of the 28 inches that normally fall by mid July. That's on top of a 9-inch shortfall for 2006.
"We get 60 percent of our total rainfall for the year during the four months from June through September," Hanke said. Water supply agencies "need to be storing this excess water now for when the dry season comes."