Unrelenting rain puts South Florida at risk of 'life-threatening' flooding

By Rich McKay

(Reuters) -More torrential downpours deluged South Florida on Thursday, adding to more than a foot (30 cm) of rain that fell on parts of the state this week and leading forecasters to issue flood watches or warnings for an area where 8 million people reside.

Some areas, including portions of Broward and Miami-Dade counties, were at risk of "life-threatening flooding," as water built up on roadways and lapped up against thresholds of homes, the National Weather Service said.

A few spots have reported up to 18-to-25 inches (46-to-63.5 cm) of rain since Monday, said Bob Oravec, a forecaster with the service's Weather Prediction Center in College Park, Maryland.

North Miami Beach was near the top of the list for rainfall on Thursday with 20.4 inches of rain since Monday, said Oravec, while Big Cypress National Preserve in the Everglades was awash with about 25 inches.

In Hallandale Beach, which has been inundated by 19.3 inches of precipitation, resident Luis Garcia Infante said he had never experienced such a deluge in his 13 years of living in the community in south Broward County.

"There's been rain, heavy rain, but never, never like this," Infante said. "This is extreme."

The slow-moving storm — a disorganized tropical depression drawing its strength from warm Gulf Coast and Atlantic waters — is expected to linger over the state until early Saturday before pushing out to sea, Oravec said.

Even though the system is not expected to strengthen into a tropical storm, it could be a wet prelude to what is expected to be a busy hurricane season, which began on June 1.

With another 5 inches of rain possible before Friday night, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis declared a state of emergency for five South Florida Counties late on Wednesday.

Media reports and social media posts showed stalled cars and people wading in streets covered in hip-deep water, or paddling in small boats and kayaks. In some areas water has swamped lawns and pushed up to the front doors of houses and other buildings.

Parts of Interstate 95, a main north-south route along the East Coast, were closed due to flooding on Wednesday.

"The problem is that there is no place for the rain to go," said Oravec. "The ground is so saturated. In some places water is rising up from the sewers."

In nearby Fort Lauderdale, Mayor Dean Trantalis declared a city-wide emergency due to flooding. He said the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission was sending boats and high-water vehicles to assist any rescues if needed.

Trantalis urged people to stay off roadways. "It's crucial to never attempt to drive through high water," he warned in a message on the X social media platform.

Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava also declared states of emergency, freeing up money and resources to better cope with the storm and its aftermath.


Forecasters are expecting eight to 13 hurricanes in the Atlantic this season, seven of which could build into major storms. Overall, some 17 to 25 named tropical storms are expected.

An average hurricane season produces about 14 named storms, of which seven become hurricanes.

In recent years, the frequency and intensity of hurricanes have increased linked to warming sea temperatures caused by higher carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere.

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