South Florida is bracing for more showers and storms today after the Fort Lauderdale region saw 25.91 inches of precipitation in a 24-hour period this week. On Wednesday afternoon, a supercell thunderstorm being fed by warm, moist air from the Gulf of Mexico stalled over the region, producing rainfall rates of more than three inches per hour at times, according to preliminary reports.
“You had this extreme warmth and moisture that was just feeding into the cell and because it had a bit of a spin to it, it was essentially acting like a vacuum and sucking all that moisture back up into the main core of the system,” meteorologist Steve Bowen told the Associated Press. “It just kept reigniting itself, essentially.”
During the peak of the rain, one month’s worth of rain fell in only one hour. Average rainfall for April 3 in Fort Lauderdale is three inches, and it’s been close to 25 years since the city saw 20 inches of rain in a month.
Homes and businesses in the city of around 200,000 residents were flooded, the streets were littered with abandoned cars, and the Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport completely closed on April 12. The airport plans to reopen today.
Nearby communities of Hollywood, Dania Beach, and Lauderdale Lakes saw between 12 and 18 inches of rain in the same period, according to preliminary reports. Roughly 12 homes were damaged by an EF0 tornado in the city of Dania Beach, about five and a half miles south of Fort Lauderdale. While no injuries were reported, roofs were ripped off of several mobile homes.
A state of emergency was declared for Broward County on Thursday. The deepest standing water surveyed on Thursday was measured in the Edgewood neighborhood just north of the airport. The National Weather Service in Miami said that a still water mark of just over three feet was measured near Floyd Hull Stadium.
Emergency officials in Fort Lauderdale said about 600 people were taken to emergency shelters, some who had to climb through windows to escape flooded homes. Some of the roads that were passable on Wednesday became impassable on Thursday, as storms dropped another more rain on the waterlogged region.
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“This amount of rain in a 24-hour period is incredibly rare for South Florida,” National Weather Service meteorologist Ana Torres-Vazquez told CNN. She added that a powerful hurricane would typically dump 20 to 25 inches of rain over more than a day and said that this week’s rainfall was a “1-in-1,000 year event, or greater.” This is a weather event so intense and rare that the chance of it happening in any given year is only 0.1 percent.
Climate change is making rain events like these worse. A 2022 study found that when it rains in the United States, the precipitation falls more fiercely than in decades past and that the intensity of rainfall has shifted from lighter periods of rain to more moderate and heavy deluges.
To be prepared for flooding, especially as the US prepares for hurricane season, the American Red Cross recommends always having an evacuation plan ready and knowing your flood risk, and to prepare a “go-bag” with supplies and important documents.