FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — In the wake of the deluge that swept through Broward, submerging streets and flooding homes, another storm is now brewing: mosquitoes.
Florida’s mosquito season typically doesn’t begin until after late spring rains turn into standing water that the insects need in order to breed. But unprecedented flooding throughout Fort Lauderdale and other areas in the county has created ripe conditions for large numbers of mosquitoes. On Saturday, entire neighborhoods’ streets remained submerged.
“Mosquito populations are just absolutely set to boom right now,” said Eric Vincent, the owner of Mosquito Shield of Boca Raton and Fort Lauderdale. “There’s the perfect amount of heat, the perfect amount of humidity. All the standing water is taking over most of the county.”
Mosquito eggs can lie dormant for up to a year. In most cases, they need water in order to hatch, which wasn’t as readily available in South Florida this year because of the dry winter.
Now, South Floridians can expect to start seeing an influx by Monday, according to Anh Ton, deputy director of the Broward County Public Works department, which oversees its Mosquito Control Division.
The eggs typically begin hatching between three days and a week after a heavy rain, Vincent said.
Broward’s Mosquito Control Division is already receiving an “uptick” in calls, Ton said, about 150 calls per day, which is double the amount they typically see in April.
The division began ramping up efforts Thursday, bringing in additional staff, and is working through the weekend, spraying the floodwater with larvicide during the day and adulticide at night.
The products they use are not toxic to people, pets, or fish, Ton said.
The division is focusing on the hardest-hit neighborhoods, most of which are in the eastern part of Fort Lauderdale, including Edgewood and other areas near the airport.
If the conditions worsen, which Ton expects, the county is also planning to use a plane to spray adulticide from the air, a “very unusual” measure for the county to take this time of year, he said. The county typically uses a plane once or twice a year, deep in the summer when mosquitoes are most active.
The plane would mainly spray on the west side of the county, freeing up trucks and and ground forces on the east side.
Vincent’s team is also working weekends, running all three mosquito-control vehicles, and using insect growth regulators, or IGRs, to try to keep the mosquitoes from reproducing. Both the public and private sectors will need to be “out in full force” to fight them, he said.
The mosquitoes may also be carrying diseases. Ton’s team is trapping the adult mosquitoes and testing them to see if the types that carry diseases are prevalent or not. So far, they have not found any with disease, he said.
Officials with the health department and the city of Fort Lauderdale are already warning residents to take preemptive measures.
The Florida Department of Health in Broward released a mosquito advisory Friday with tips for residents.
“The Florida Department of Health in Broward County reminds everyone to do their part in preventing mosquito breeding and mosquito-borne illness,” the DOH advisory states. “All Florida residents and visitors are asked to Drain and Cover to help keep our families and neighbors safe.”
Forecasters are also predicting even more rain and thunderstorms over the coming days, likely to exacerbate both flooding and mosquito conditions.
Though a dry Saturday will offer some “reprieve,” both Sunday and Monday could see 1-3 inches of additional rain, according to Shawn Bhatti, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service Miami.
Severe thunderstorms are also possible Sunday, along with “localized flash flooding, even for areas already hit,” Bhatti said.
The weather will finally clear up by Tuesday.
Looking long-term, the region may have a slightly drier rainy season this year because of El Nino, Bhatti said. South Florida’s rainy season officially begins on May 15.
Here’s what officials are recommending to avoid the swarms:
—Drain water from garbage cans, house gutters, buckets, pool covers, coolers, toys, flower pots or any other containers where sprinkler or rain water has collected.
—Discard old tires, drums, bottles, cans, pots and pans, broken appliances and other items that aren’t being used.
—Empty and clean birdbaths and pets’ water bowls at least once a week.
—Protect boats and vehicles from rain with tarps that don’t accumulate water.
—Maintain swimming pools, keeping them appropriately chlorinated. Empty plastic swimming pools when not in use.
—Tightly cover water storage containers (buckets, cisterns, rain barrels) so mosquitoes cannot get inside to lay eggs. For containers without lids, use wire mesh with holes smaller than an adult mosquito.
—Fill tree holes to prevent them from filling with water.
—If you have a septic tank, repair cracks or gaps. Cover open vent or plumbing pipes. Use wire mesh with holes smaller than an adult mosquito.
—Wear shoes, socks, and long pants and long sleeves. This type of protection may be necessary for people who must work in areas where mosquitoes are present.
—Apply mosquito repellent to bare skin and clothing.
Fort Lauderdale residents can report any mosquito infestations to the 24/7 Customer Service Center at 954-828-8000. Broward County residents can request free service through the Mosquito Service Request Form or by calling 311.