Florida flood threat: Double-digit rainfall totals possible


Thousands of people could wake up in the dark Thursday as torrential rain and powerful winds knocked out power across South Florida metro areas and prompted school closures.

Overnight flash flood warnings expired early Thursday, but more rain is in the forecast.

More than seven million people across southeastern Florida are under a flood watch through Thursday afternoon and in eastern Florida through Thursday evening. High wind alerts are also in place across eastern Florida, with some hurricane-strength gusts reported.

As of around 5 a.m. Thursday, more than 120,000 homes and businesses were without power in Florida, with Miami-Dade County accounting for roughly half of those outages, according to outage tracking website Poweroutage.us.

Even though the heaviest rainfall moved off the southeastern coast of Florida Thursday morning rain was still impacting areas where the soil is already saturated.

“Drainage will be difficult in many coastal areas due (to) the high tide. Flash flooding is ongoing or expected to begin shortly,” the weather service in Miami warned.

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Southeast Florida has been facing the brunt of the blow, with rainfall totals expected to approach double digits. Areas around Fort Lauderdale, Miami and southwest into the Florida Keys could see 48-hour rainfall totals approach 10 inches.

By Wednesday night, Miami was drenched with 6.73 inches of rain within the previous 24 hours, while Hollywood received 5.62 inches and Fort Lauderdale saw 4.2 inches of rainfall during roughly the same time period, according to preliminary reports from the National Weather Service.

Broward County Public Schools canceled classes and closed administrative offices Thursday due to safety concerns, the district said on its website. Broward College in Fort Lauderdale will close Thursday for the second day in a row this week due to flooding, the school said online.

Meanwhile in Lauderdale Lakes, located in Broward County, wind gusts toppled over a tree and destroyed two cars, CNN affiliate WSVN reported Wednesday.

Spiro Marchelos, the owner of Anglers Beach Cafe, gave his employees the day off due to the conditions.

“It’s a loss of revenue, but we have no choice,” he told the outlet. “The weather is bad, and people aren’t going to come to the beach today. It’s windy, rainy, and the streets are flooded.”

There is a slight risk for excessive rainfall, level 2 of 4, along the eastern coast of Florida beginning early Thursday morning and continuing through the day, according to the Weather Prediction Center. A marginal risk for excessive rainfall, level 1 of 4, is in place over southeastern Florida through Thursday.

That’s combined with a high wind warning in effect for coastal areas in Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade counties through 1 p.m. Thursday. Winds may gust up to 60 mph, heightening the threat of widespread power outages.

Portions of Palm Beach County and Broward County – where Fort Lauderdale is located – saw 3 to 6 inches of rain on Tuesday and stand to get an additional 8 to 10 inches through Thursday. Three-day rainfall totals in excess of a foot are not out of the question in these areas.

Fort Lauderdale has already had an abnormally wet year, and this week’s rain will likely be enough to push the city into record territory. As of Wednesday morning, the city had recorded 100 inches of rain this year, just shy of its wettest year on record – 102.36 inches in 1947.

And now Greg Brandenburg of Fort Lauderdale is bracing for the worst.

“It’s just so much rain that we’ve had this year, it’s crazy,” he told WSVN. “Now we got this rain situation coming back again. It’s just tiring.”

The torrential rainfall rates and accumulation totals through Thursday across southeastern Florida will lead to “a higher probability of flash flooding concerns within the urban corridor down into the Florida Keys north of Marathon,” according to the Weather Prediction Center.

Saturated ground and ongoing king tides could slow the water from receding in coastal communities that flood this week.

CNN Meteorologists Derek Van Dam and Robert Shackelford contributed to this report.

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