South Florida faces more storms after days of record-breaking rain, flooding

Updated

Thunderstorms reemerged over rain-soaked South Florida on Thursday, further inundating the region with floodwaters, forcing road closures and disrupting hundreds of flights as a daylong stretch of severe weather rages on.

The storms, which began on Tuesday and are the result of a slow-moving low-pressure system, pummeled South Florida with upwards of 20 inches of rain drenching some areas, according to the National Weather Service. The downpour prompted multiple rescues and urgent warnings of "life-threatening floods" on Wednesday as major travel arteries closed, including a section of Interstate 95; hundreds of flights at several major airports were delayed and canceled.

A tornado with peak winds of 85-95 mph touched down in Hobe Sound, just north of West Palm Beach, and moved 1.7 miles toward Jupiter Island before entering the Atlantic, a survey team with the weather service confirmed. Across Hobe Sound and several nearby coastal communities, the storms toppled power poles, uprooted trees and damaged homes.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis declared a state of emergency to coordinate and mobilize recovery efforts; the mayors of Fort Lauderdale, Miami and other cities also made emergency declarations. With many roads still under several feet of water, more rain could be dangerous, especially for Collier, Miami-Dade and Broward counties, which includes the cities of Naples, Miami and Fort Lauderdale.

"It's been awful," said Peaches Stevenson, a longtime resident of Hollywood, a coastal city between Miami and Fort Lauderdale. On Wednesday, the 44-year-old ventured out with her husband to get some groceries at Winn-Dixie and encountered dozens of flooded roads. Once they reached the parking lot, the couple turned around because it was too flooded to park.

"The rain has been non-stop," said Stevenson, the owner of a local restaurant, The Daily Bread. "It's been flooded here before, but not like this and not so quickly."

On Thursday, meteorologists said 4-8 inches of rainfall with locally higher amounts of more than 10 inches was in the forecast. The weather service issued a "high risk" of excessive rainfall advisory for parts of South Florida, including Miami, Naples and Fort Lauderdale, adding: "Locally catastrophic flash flooding is possible."

In a news conference on Thursday, Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava urged residents to remain cautious and vigilant as the threat of dangerous flooding continues.

“Don’t be deceived by the sun that is peeking out from behind the clouds,” she said. “If you can, stay home or indoors.”

Developments:

∎ At Miami International Airport, more than 200 flights were canceled and 160 were delayed as of 11:30 a.m., according to FlightAware, a flight tracking website. A day earlier, there were 411 delays and 367 cancellations. Delays also impacted Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport, which had 114 cancellations and 168 delayed flights by Thursday afternoon, according to FlightAware.

∎ Hallandale Beach, a city between Miami and Fort Lauderdale, suspended bus operations and closed all administrative offices and park facilities, citing the incoming storms. Hallandale has been drenched with more rain than any other part of Broward County, with 19.39 inches of rainfall in about a 48-hour period through early Thursday.

∎ State Farm reported it had already received about 300 auto claims associated with the torrential downpours by early Thursday, according to the Palm Beach Post, part of the USA TODAY Network.

Rainfall totals

Below is a list of the rainfall totals recorded by the weather service across South Florida during a 48-hour period that ended early Thursday morning.

  • 25.13 inches, Big Cypress National Preserve

  • 20.43 inches, North Miami

  • 19.39 inches, Hallandale

  • 19.1 inches, Hollywood

  • 17.97 inches, Davie

Storms, confirmed tornado hits Hobe Sound

Paul Feinsinger had just arrived at a home he uses for his accounting business in Hobe Sound – a community along Florida's Treasure Coast – around 10:30 a.m. when he got a tornado warning.

“All of the sudden the wind started blowing, things started banging around,” Feinsinger said. “I got down on the floor and within about 2 or 3 minutes it passed.”

Trees were uprooted in the backyard of the property and screens and windows were blown out. The interior of the office was strewn with paper and office supplies after the storm.

“I’ve been here since 1970, and been through hurricanes and things like that, but there’s nothing like this,” he said. “This is crazy.”

Paul Feinsinger on June 12, 2024, shows damage to the inside of his business at Dixie Highway and Southeast Anstis Place in Hobe Sound after what he thought was a tornado came through.
Paul Feinsinger on June 12, 2024, shows damage to the inside of his business at Dixie Highway and Southeast Anstis Place in Hobe Sound after what he thought was a tornado came through.

A short walk from Feinsinger’s business, David Anderson stood in front of a damaged home. He runs his landscape company out of it and his mother-in-law lives there. He wasn’t there at the time, but got a call from his alarm company indicating the garage door opened.

“I got here and it was blown in and that's when we found out the roof is dropped on the inside,” Anderson said. “It's leaking all over the place.”

He said parts of his roof are in the backyard, and on the side of the single-story home. No one was hurt, he said, adding that the storm "destroyed the whole nursery behind us."

– Will Greenlee, Treasure Coast Newspapers

Crews work to stand the fallen Ficus trees along Bridge Road on Thursday, June 13, 2024, in Hobe Sound. Meteorologists confirmed Wednesday evening that a tornado touched down earlier in Hobe Sound.
Crews work to stand the fallen Ficus trees along Bridge Road on Thursday, June 13, 2024, in Hobe Sound. Meteorologists confirmed Wednesday evening that a tornado touched down earlier in Hobe Sound.

In Aventura, streets resemble canals

The city of Aventura, about 15 miles north of Miami, declared a state of emergency after dark Wednesday as main streets flooded with waist-high water and roads became littered with abandoned cars, blocking traffic.

As worried parents took to local Facebook groups and WhatsApp chats for suggestions on how to pick up their kids who were stuck at the city's rec center for summer camp, police delivered pizza to keep everyone fed and in good spirits.

"Thank you to our incredible staff who is working overtime to make sure over 140 campers are safe and having fun!" the city posted on Instagram along with videos of the flooding.

Neighbors waded into water during heavy rains to attempt to clear clogged storm drains as high-tide brought surges. Some sent messages in bottles to float around streets that had appeared more like canals in the darkness.

– Leora Arnowitz

Record-breaking rainfall soaks South Florida

The blitzkrieg of rain started on Tuesday, drenching southwest Florida in a deluge that raised the heights of rivers and flooded the streets of Sarasota, Naples and Fort Myers.

In Sarasota, nearly 4 inches of rain fell in one hour, the most to fall in such a short time since records began in 1972, according to the weather service. In Siesta Key, just south of Sarasota, more than half a foot of rain was recorded. Videos showed residents across the region pushing cars out of floodwaters.

Darryl Dillon, the general manager of Mattison's City Grill in downtown Sarasota, said water crept into the outdoor patio for the first time in a storm that wasn’t a hurricane. “Nobody was out,” Dillon told the Herald-Tribune, part of the USA TODAY Network. “I stepped out of my car into a foot-and-a-half of water.”

While Miami and other parts of southeastern Florida were hit by bands of rain on Tuesday, it wouldn't be until Wednesday that the region would see "life-threatening" floods.

According to preliminary figures, 5-6.5 inches of rain fell per hour in some parts of Broward and Miami-Dade counties on Wednesday. At Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport, 6.77 inches of rain was recorded, dashing the record of 5.47 inches recorded in 1978, according to the weather service.

Emergency responders in Miami-Dade County rescued 34 people who were trapped in vehicles and inside homes on Wednesday, said Mayor Daniella Levine Cava at a news conference. In Fort Lauderdale, 60 vehicles were towed from the roadways, the city said in a statement.

The rain forced officials to shut down I-95 in the southbound direction in Fort Lauderdale. After six hours, the interstate, which runs from Miami up the eastern United States to the Canadian border, was reopened.

The foul weather is associated with a tropical disturbance over the state, one that the National Hurricane Center is giving a 20% chance of development into a depression or tropical storm over the next seven days.

Florida weather advisory map

National weather radar

Contributing: Doyle Rice, USA TODAY; Melissa Pérez-Carrillo and Heather Bushman, Sarasota Herald-Tribune; Kimberly Miller and Antonio Fins, Palm Beach Post

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Flooding in South Florida continues as severe storms on the way

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