September 2018 was a very unique month.  Tropical Storm Gordon dumped significant rainfall in Franklin, Gulf, Okaloosa, Santa Rosa, and Escambia Counties in the Florida Panhandle and Southwestern Alabama.  As bad as that was, it did not compare to severe flooding in the Carolinas from Hurricane Florence. Wilmington, North Carolina received 24″ or two feet of rain in the month of September. Yet the areas between these two storm paths were drier than normal.

September rainfall map

Closer to home, the National Weather Service map above shows clearly the path of Tropical Storm Gordon.  The areas shaded in pink, purple, and white received 10″+ for the month.  The Panhandle counties east of the Apalachicola River had much lower rainfall totals, with < 5″ in September.

January through September rainfall chart

The Florida Automated Weather Network (FAWN) stations located in the rural areas of the Panhandle documented the variation across the region in September.  The wettest location was at Jay where 13.2″ were recorded in September.  Only 2.7″ was recorded at the station near Marianna. The Marianna, Quincy and Monticello stations recorded below historic average for September, because the tropical storm had little impact on these locations.  Through the first 3/4 of the year, the DeFuniak station has received the highest total rainfall with 54″, with the lowest total of 44″ in Quincy.  The average for all five stations through September was 50″, which is 2.4″ above average.


The dog days of summer were worse in September than August.  The average 6′ air temperature was 1° warmer than August.

As you can see from the chart above the morning lows did begin to cool off slightly at the end of September, down to a low of 68° on September 28.  There were seven days in September with highs reaching 94°(September 12, 14,15,16, 18, 19, & 20).  The daytime highs were clearly influenced as Hurricane Florence sucked up moisture like a vacuum.  To see the complete daily weather data from the Marianna FAWN station, use the following link:  2018 Jan-Sept Weather Summary.

October Outlook

The Climate Prediction Center (CDC) forecast for October calls for well above average temperatures to continue, along with above average rainfall.  As peanut and cotton harvest are in full swing, the warm temperatures should continue to dry out the soil.  October is the driest month of the year, normally, so above average rainfall may not be a serious issue for crop harvest, except perhaps in the Western Panhandle counties were soils are already saturated.

El Niño Watch

The CDC has increased the chances of an El Niño this winter.

ENSO-neutral conditions are present.  Equatorial sea surface temperatures are near-to-above average across most of the Pacific Ocean.  There is a 50-55% chance of El Niño onset during the Northern Hemisphere fall 2018 (October-November), increasing to 65-70% during winter 2018-19. Source:Climate Predication Center
So what doe this mean for farmers and ranchers?  It may be a good year for cool-season forages and small grains, with additional rainfall this winter.  The past two years have been very dry in the fall, but this year’s forecast is different.  It may take longer than normal to cool down this fall, but at least there is soil moisture to work with.  It could be a more challenging year for vegetable and melon producers, who may face wetter conditions than normal in the spring.
el nino rainfall in Florida
In general El Niño years are 2° cooler and 3″ wetter than normal through the late fall and winter.  But, as you can see from the chart above there is a 4″ range in the Panhandle for El Niño years.

Doug Mayo

Lead Editor for Panhandle Ag e-News - Jackson County Extension Director - Livestock & Forages Agent.My true expertise is with beef cattle and pasture management, but I can assist with information on other livestock species, as well as recreational fish ponds.Follow me on Twitter @UFCowman, or Facebook https://www.facebook.com/UFJacksonCoFL/