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More than 100 wildfires have scorched our 'abnormally dry' state, and it could get worse

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PHOTO BY JOEY ROULETTE
  • Photo by Joey Roulette

Berry says a similar phenomenon is happening to the hurricanes that may come toward Florida. The number of hurricanes is not increasing, but we can expect the few hurricanes that hit the state will be more intense because of higher water temperatures. Hurricane Matthew smacked into the Caribbean and east coast of the U.S. last year, directly killing 585 people, including some in Florida.

Eric Rollings, chair of the Orange County Soil and Water Conservation District, agrees. In recent months, he's seen local lake levels drop dramatically. He lived in Orlando during the 1998 fires, and this drought reminds him of when "it seemed like the whole state was going to burn."

"Hopefully, it's not to that extent, but the thing is that when we don't have rainfall, consumptive use permits are draining more out of the aquifer, and you have warmer months, it's a recipe for brush fires," he says. "People are going to start using a lot more water, and we have to ask, are we going to see sinkholes after a month or two?"

Climate change may not be responsible for the drought itself, but Rollings says it is responsible for the severity.

"I mean, look at all the different weather patterns," he says. "These hurricanes coming through are huge. It's like everything is on steroids."

Rollings thinks people in Orlando may not know the area is in a severe drought, so he wants to get the word out.

"Don't wait for an authoritative body to tell you can't do something to protect your quality of life," he says. "Every day we need to work together and conserve our water and resources. [We] have 20 million residents and 100 million visitors every year, so we've got to protect that – when it's not there and the rules become more restrictive, you're going to notice."

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