(CMR) Anyone traveling from the Cayman Islands on Southwest Airlines via Fort Lauderdale Airport will want to reconsider their travel plans after the airport was shut down due to 25.91 inches of rain in 24 hours. The airport will email close until at least Friday as cleanup efforts are underway. Governor Ron DeSantis issued an executive order declaring a state of emergency for Broward Country.
According to the National Weather Service office in Miami, this is a new record with more flash flooding possible on Thursday afternoon. The NWS sent out a flash flood emergency advisory for southern Florida on Wednesday night. The rainfall and flooding may continue to impact the operational capability of critical infrastructure, including major state and county roadways, airports, hospitals, schools, and other critical infrastructure throughout Broward County.
“SEEK HIGHER GROUND NOW!” the National Weather Service repeatedly told people in the Fort Lauderdale metro area, warning of life-threatening conditions in a statement issued at 9:44 p.m. ET Wednesday.
In Broward County, the rains started Monday before the heaviest rains arrived Wednesday afternoon. Crews worked through the night to assist and rescue stranded residents. Schools were canceled Thursday, and interruption to the power supply was widespread. They will remain closed Friday. Fort Lauderdale City Hall was also closed due to ground-floor flooding and no power.
A tunnel carrying U.S. Route 1 under a river and a major street in downtown Fort Lauderdale was also closed, along with some ramps to Interstate 95. Service was restored on South Florida’s high-speed commuter rail, Brightline after it briefly shut down Wednesday evening. Hundreds of cars were also abandoned and seen “floating like boats.”
Several tornados touched down, including one in Dania Beach, which was estimated to have peak winds of 85 mph. This tornado caused tree damage before crossing into a mobile home community east of I-95. Metal siding and roof damage was noted through the community.
A flood watch remains in effect for coastal and metro Broward and Miami-Dade Counties until 8:00 PM EDT this evening.
Shawn Bhatti, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Miami, said the region received “an unprecedented amount” of rain. The weather service was still confirming totals, but some gauges showed up to 25 inches (63.5 centimeters) of rainfall.
“For context, within a six-hour period, the amount that fell is about a 1 in 1,000 chance of happening within a given year,” Bhatti said. “So it’s a very historical type of event.”