Florida braces for more rain after rare flash flood emergency

Southern Florida faces a rare flash flood emergency due to heavy rainfall from a tropical disturbance

Published - June 13, 2024 02:28 pm IST - Florida

A vehicle stranded by the flooded road due to heavy rain in Sunny Isles Beach in Florida on June 12, 2024.

A vehicle stranded by the flooded road due to heavy rain in Sunny Isles Beach in Florida on June 12, 2024. | Photo Credit: AP

A tropical disturbance has brought a rare flash flood emergency to much of southern Florida as residents prepared to weather more heavy rainfall on June 13 and 14.

June 12 downpours and subsequent flooding blocked roads, floated vehicles and delayed the Florida Panthers on their way to Stanley Cup games in Canada against the Edmonton Oilers.

The disorganised storm system was pushing across Florida from the Gulf of Mexico at roughly the same time as the early June start of hurricane season, which this year is forecast to be among the most active in recent memory amid concerns that climate change is increasing storm intensity.

The disturbance has not reached cyclone status and was given only a slight chance to form into a tropical system once it emerges into the Atlantic Ocean after crossing Florida, according to the National Hurricane Centre.

“Regardless of development, heavy rainfall is forecast to continue across portions of the Florida peninsula during the next few days,” the hurricane centre posted on its website on June 12.

Numerous roads were flooded and impassable for vehicles. On major artery Interstate 95 in Broward County, southbound traffic was being diverted around a flooded section and contractors were on their way to pump the drainage system, the Florida Highway Patrol said in an email. The interstate wouldn't reopen until after water is drained, the agency said.

The Miami weather service office issued increasingly dire warnings.

Flood warnings across the region

“Life-threatening flooding is now ongoing,” the service said on the X , the social media platform. “Please stay off the roadways and get to higher ground.” Mayors in Fort Lauderdale and Hollywood declared a state of emergency for their cities on June 12 afternoon.

Later on June 12, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis also declared a state of emergency for five counties — Broward and Miami-Dade on Florida's Atlantic coast and Collier, Lee and Sarasota counties on the state's west coast.

Miami-Dade County Mayor Mrs Daniella Levine Cava also issued a local state of emergency.

In nearby Hollywood, Mr. Mike Viesel was driving home on June 12 afternoon with his dog Humi when he was caught in deep floodwater along a low-lying street, he told the Miami Herald.

As he slowed down and stopped, Mr. Viesel said other cars drove past him, sending even more water into his vehicle. His engine stalled.“I'd walk out of my car," he told the Herald, but his dog “has a problem with water.”

In Miami's Edgewater neighborhood, the lobby of the building that Mr. Alfredo Rodriguez moved into a year ago already had water puddles inside on Wednesday morning. He told the Herald the building has flooded five times since he moved in.

“This is horrible. I can't pull my car around,” he said of the flooded streets.

Dozens of flights were delayed or canceled at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport. The NHL's Florida Panthers were delayed more than three hours from departing Fort Lauderdale for their nearly six-hour flight to Edmonton for Games 3 and 4 of the Stanley Cup Final.

Farther north, the National Weather Service in Melbourne confirmed that an EF-1 tornado hit Hobe Sound on Florida's Atlantic Coast north of West Palm Beach on June 12 morning.

The winds knocked down multiple banyan trees and caused some damage to a store, according to Martin County Fire Rescue officials. Although no injuries were reported, but access to wealthy Jupiter Island was cut off by debris on the road.

It's already been a wet and blustery week in Florida. In Miami, about 6 inches (15 centimetres) of rain fell Tuesday and 7 inches (17 centimetres) in Miami Beach, according to the National Weather Service. Hollywood got about 5 inches (12 centimetres).

Bryan McNoldy, a senior research associate at the University of Miami Rosenstiel School, noted on X that some 9 inches (23 centimetres) had fallen on parts of South Florida from 7 a.m to 6 p.m. on June 12 in addition to the rain that fell on June 11.

“We are in trouble,” Mr. McNoldy wrote.

Increasing incidence of hurricanes

More rain was forecast for the rest of the week, leading the weather service office in Miami to extend a flash flood watch through Thursday. Some places could see another 6 inches (15 centimetres) of rain.

The western side of the state, much of which has been in a prolonged drought, also got some major rainfall. Nearly 6.5 inches (16.5 centimetres) of rain fell on June 11 at Sarasota Bradenton International Airport, the weather service says, and flash flood warnings were in effect in those areas as well.

Forecasts predict an unusually busy hurricane season.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration estimates there is an 85% chance that the Atlantic hurricane season will be above average, predicting between 17 and 25 named storms in the coming months including up to 13 hurricanes and four major hurricanes. An average season has 14 named storms.

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