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Florida told to prepare for more flash flooding Friday following tropical storms

Two women react as they see flooding on their street on Thursday, June 13, 2024, in North Miami, Fla.
Marta Lavandier
Two women react as they see flooding on their street on Thursday, June 13, 2024, in North Miami, Fla.

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — Forecasters warned Floridians to prepare for additional flash flooding after a tropical disturbance dumped as much as 20 inches (50 centimeters) of rainfall in the southern parts of the state, with worsening conditions expected Friday.

The disorganized 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 downpours hit Tuesday and continued into Wednesday, delaying flights at two of the state’s largest airports and leaving vehicles waterlogged and stalled in some of the region’s lowest-lying streets. On Thursday, travelers tried to salvage their plans as residents cleared debris before the next round of rain.

The National Weather Service cautioned that even smaller amounts of precipitation could impact saturated areas, causing flash floods on Friday before the region has a chance to recover.

“Looked like the beginning of a zombie movie,” said Ted Rico, a tow truck driver who spent much of Wednesday night and Thursday morning helping to clear the streets of stalled vehicles. “There’s cars littered everywhere, on top of sidewalks, in the median, in the middle of the street, no lights on. Just craziness, you know. Abandoned cars everywhere.”

Rico, of One Master Trucking Corp., was born and raised in Miami and said he was ready for the emergency.

“You know when its coming,” he said. “Every year it’s just getting worse, and for some reason people just keep going through the puddles.”

Ticket and security lines snaked around a domestic concourse at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport Thursday. The travel boards showed about half of a terminal’s flights had been canceled or postponed.

Bill Carlisle, a Navy petty officer first class, spent his morning trying to catch a flight back to Norfolk, Virginia. He arrived at Miami International Airport at about 6:30 a.m., but 90 minutes later he was still in line and realized he couldn’t get his bags checked and through security in time to catch his flight.

“It was a zoo,” said Carlisle, a public affairs specialist. He was speaking for himself, not the Navy. “Nothing against the (airport) employees, there is only so much they can do.”

He used his phone to book an afternoon flight out of Fort Lauderdale. He took a shuttle the 20 miles (32 kilometers) north, only to find the flight was canceled. He was headed back to Miami for a 9 p.m. flight, hoping it wouldn’t be canceled as a result of heavy rains expected later in the day. He was resigned, not angry.

“Just a long day sitting in airports,” Carlisle said. “This is kind of par for the course for government travel.”

In Hallandale Beach, Alex Demchemko was walking his Russian spaniel Lex along the flooded sidewalks near the Airbnb where he has lived after arriving from Russia last month to seek asylum in the U.S.

“We didn’t come out from our apartment, but we had to walk with our dog,” Demchemko said. “A lot of flashes, raining, a lot of floating cars and a lot of left cars without drivers, and there was a lot of water on the streets. It was kind of catastrophic.”

On Thursday morning, Daniela Urrieche, 26, was bailing water out of her SUV, which got stuck on a flooded street as she drove home from work Wednesday.

“In the nine years that I’ve lived here, this has been the worst,” she said. “Even in a hurricane, streets were not as bad as it was in the past 24 hours.”

The flooding wasn’t limited to the streets. Charlea Johnson spent Wednesday night at her Hallendale Beach home barreling water into the sink and toilet.

“The water just started flooding in the back and flooding in the front,” Johnson said.

Copyright 2024 NPR

The Associated Press
[Copyright 2024 NPR]