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Alberto aftermath: Boynton drenched; are Lake O releases coming soon?


Alberto’s wet sweep through South Florida left more than 8 inches of rain in some areas of Palm Beach County and stoked concerns about Lake Okeechobee’s rising waters.

A National Weather Service tally of 3-day rain totals through Monday night found Boynton Beach had the most rain from Alberto in South Florida with 8.8 inches. The runner-up for Alberto rainfall was Parkland in Broward County, which received 8.4 inches.

Other notable totals included Juno Beach at 5.3 inches, Belle Glade with 4.8 inches and Sandalfoot Cove west of Boca Raton at 4.6 inches.

BOOKMARK The Palm Beach Post’s storm tracking map here.

Palm Beach International Airport received 3.42 inches through Monday, and broke a rainfall record for the day on Friday when 1.14 inches was measured.

“That was an oddball because the record was low and if it had occurred on literally any other day of the month, it wouldn’t have been a record,” said Chris Fisher, an NWS meteorologist in Miami. “The next day had more rain, but it wasn’t a record.”

Across the 16-county region overseen by the South Florida Water Management District an average of just 1.92 inches of rain fell during Alberto, with the Kissimmee Basin north of Lake Okeechobee receiving the lowest amounts.

That’s good for the swelling lake, which stood at 14.02 feet above sea level on Tuesday — near the 14.4 feet it hit two years ago at this time when lake discharges contributed to a widespread algae bloom on the St. Lucie River.

RELATED: Know the difference between a watch and a warning this hurricane season.

John Campbell, a spokesman for the Army Corps of Engineers, said a conference call was scheduled Tuesday with scientists to discuss the height of the lake, but he said no decisions about discharges would be made.

The Corps is responsible for managing water levels in Lake Okeechobee so the aging Herbert Hoover Dike doesn’t erode, putting communities around the lake in danger of flooding. It likes to keep the lake between 12.5 and 15.5 feet above sea level, but would prefer it be at the lower end at the May 15 beginning of the rainy season.

Treasure Coast environmentalists fear Lake Okeechobee discharges to the St. Lucie are likely. Small discharges to the west of the lake into the Caloosahatchee River have been ongoing since last fall.

“We’re really concerned these wet conditions will last and we’re keeping an eye on the tropics,” said Mark Perry, executive director of the Florida Oceanographic Society in Stuart. “The Corps has to decide if it can release anything form the lake east and west without further damage to the estuary.”

Check The Palm Beach Post radar map.

Perry said local storm runoff has already weakened the St. Lucie, which suffers when too much freshwater dilutes the estuary’s brackish ecosystem.

About 10.2 inches of rain has fallen districtwide — from Orlando to the Keys — this month. That’s 300 percent above what’s normal for May.

In Palm Beach County, May rainfall has measured between an average of 14.3 and 15.3 inches, or 350 to 400 percent of normal.

Still, that’s not enough to put May in the rain record books. The Southeast Regional Climate Center ranks PBIA in West Palm Beach as 11th wettest based on 123 years of records.

Fisher said rain chances through Thursday stand at 50 percent as the remains of Alberto keep bringing up tropical moisture. Rain chances drop to 20 percent Friday.

“The next couple of weeks, it finally looks like it might be a little drier,” Fisher said. “It won’t be rain-free, but nothing like we’ve seen this month.”

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