Fort Lauderdale experienced the rainiest day in its history Wednesday – a 1-in-1,000-year rainfall event – sparking a flash flood emergency in Broward County that has prompted emergency rescues, forced drivers to abandon cars, shuttered schools and shut down the airport through 5 a.m. Friday. And more rain is on the way.
According to CNN, The region recorded widespread rainfall totals of more than a foot, while Fort Lauderdale tallied 25.91 inches in a 24-hour period, according to preliminary reports from the National Weather Service office in Miami.
While the rain Thursday won’t reach nearly the amounts that fell on Wednesday, it will be problematic and create additional flooding, the National Weather Service said. Gusty winds, small hail and even isolated tornadoes are possible.
A flood warning is in effect for portions of Broward County until noon Thursday. A flood watch is in effect through Thursday evening. Between 14 and 20 inches of rain have drenched the greater Fort Lauderdale metro area since Wednesday afternoon, according to a Thursday morning update from the National Weather Service office in Miami. The deluge is the “most severe flooding that I’ve ever seen,” one mayor said.
“This amount of rain in a 24-hour period is incredibly rare for South Florida,” said meteorologist Ana Torres-Vazquez from the weather service’s Miami forecast office.
Rainfall of 20 to 25 inches is similar to what the area can receive with a high-end hurricane over more than a day, Torres-Vazquez explained. She described the rainfall as a “1-in-1,000-year event, or greater,” meaning it’s an event so intense, the chance of it happening in any given year is just 0.1%.
During the peak of Wednesday’s deluge, a month’s worth of rain fell in just one hour. Fort Lauderdale’s average rainfall for April is 3 inches and it’s been nearly 25 years since the city totaled 20 inches of rain in an entire month.
Extreme rainfall is a signature consequence of a warming climate, and it is happening more frequently. The deluge in South Florida is just the latest instance after 1-in-1000-year rains struck over the past year in areas including Dallas, St. Louis, eastern Kentucky, and Yellowstone.
“Even though the heavy rain has concluded, numerous roads remain closed,” the weather service said, adding that flooding is expected to persist. Earlier, Fort Lauderdale was “experiencing severe flooding in multiple areas of the city,” Fort Lauderdale Fire Rescue said on social media, warning to stay off the roads as vehicles may become stuck or submerged.
A flash flood emergency – the highest level of flood warning – that was in effect for portions of South Florida, including Fort Lauderdale, expired early Thursday.