Rain-weary South Floridians await sun after days-long deluge

By Rich McKay

(Reuters) -Nearly a week of torrential rainfall appeared to be winding down in South Florida on Friday after a slow-moving weather system dumped more than two feet (60 cm) of precipitation in the Everglades and a foot or more in parts of populous Miami-Dade County.

With the storm pushing out to sea on Friday, the region was under threat of more flooding, which had already sporadically forced the closure of major roadways. Five counties and numerous cities remained under a state of emergency.

The skies were expected to drop another one to two inches (2.5-5cm) of rain, including on North Miami Beach, which experienced more than 20 inches as of Friday morning, said William Churchill, a forecaster with the National Weather Service.

"They don't need any more," Churchill said. "Quite a few areas saw over a foot of rain. But this is really the final day of it."

The storm, drawing its strength from warm Gulf and Atlantic waters, hit the west coast of the peninsula on Monday and reached the east coast on Tuesday. It then stalled, bringing a deluge that has not let up for days.

Social media images showed numerous stalled cars in flooded roadways, people wading in hip-deep waters and others paddling small boats and kayaks down suburban streets that resembled canals.

The heaviest rain fell in the Everglades, with almost 28 inches in the Big Cypress National Preserve, Churchill said. Fort Lauderdale, in Broward County just north of Miami, got 14 inches.

After about 175 storm-related calls on Wednesday including 35 water rescues from people stuck in cars, rescue calls virtually dried up overnight Thursday into Friday, Broward County Battalion Fire Chief Michael Kane said.

"We were blessed that this is coming to an end," he said.

Evan Scott Piper, the Mayor of North Miami Beach, which was swamped with more than 20 inches of rain, told Reuters, "Thank God this is going to end."

Even though rain is expected to taper off, officials said the risk of flooding persisted across an area where about 7 million people reside.

Crystal Wager, mayor of Miami Shores, where 21.6 inches of rain fell, said water was still rising.

"It's like it's coming up from the ground," Wagar said. "The water has no place to go, but we have all the city pumps running and we'll weather it."

(Reporting by Rich McKay in Atlanta; Editing by Frank McGurty, Rod Nickel and Sandra Maler)

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