South Florida was under siege and under water Thursday amid a storm that dumped 25 inches of rain over some coastal areas, flooding homes and highways and forcing the shutdown of a major airport.
Fort Lauderdale was slammed with 25.95 inches of rainfall in 24 hours, AccuWeather reported. Some areas received 20 inches of rain in six hours. Hollywood and South Miami received at least 9 inches of rain.
The amount of rain, the rainfall rate is something you should see once in in every 1,000 years or once in every 2,000 years, Dan DePodwin, AccuWeather’s director of forecast operations, told USA TODAY.
AccuWeather Chief Meteorologist Jonathan Porter said at one point Fort Lauderdale got about 1 1/2 inches of rain in 10 minutes, close to the United States’ all-time record for rain in that short period of time.
Both Fort Lauderdale and its home county of Broward issued a state of emergency as flooding forced residents in some areas to wade through knee-high water or use canoes and kayaks to navigate the streets.
Work crews cleared drains and pumped out standing water Thursday after the previous day’s deluge. A flood watch was in effect across much of South Florida through Thursday night, the National Weather Service said.
The one-day rain total in Fort Lauderdale is equal to almost 40% of the average for an entire year, DePodwin said.
The National Weather Service issued a flash flood emergency for Fort Lauderdale and other areas into Thursday as the chance of thunderstorms continued across the region, warning: This is a life-threatening situation. Seek higher ground now!
The storms prompted Fort Lauderdale Hollywood International Airport to suspend all flights Wednesday afternoon and won’t reopen until 5 a.m. Friday because of debris and massive flooding. Access was another issue:
The airport’s roadways were shut down by flooding. Travelers were warned not to attempt to enter or leave the airport. More than 640 flights were canceled through Wednesday and early Thursday.
The highest preliminary rainfall total shared by the National Weather Service’s office in Miami so far is 25.91 inches at a Weather STEM station at the Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood Airport.
If the weather service verifies that rainfall total, it would break the state’s 24-hour rain record by 2.63 inches. The current record – 23.28 inches – was set on Nov. 11-12, 1980 in Key West.
Broward County shut down all of its more than 300 public schools because of the weather crisis. Toni Barnes, Broward Schools director of emergency management, told WPLG-TV that some schools experienced severe flooding.
The county’s 300-plus schools, which serve about 260,000 students, will remain closed until Monday after sustaining at least $2 million in damages, officials said at a news conference.
Thunderstorms and winds continued to gain strength over the northern and eastern Gulf of Mexico, Accuweather warned. The threats were forecast to spread across parts of Florida, Georgia and the Carolinas into Friday evening.
Late last week forecasters had warned the emerging storm system could become the first April tropical storm ever recorded in the Gulf of Mexico.
AccuWeather reported on Monday that the conditions for a tropical storm to develop had deteriorated but warned of heavy rains, gusty winds and thunderstorms.
USA Today / ABC Flash Point News 2023.