Fort Lauderdale and the surrounding cities in southeast Florida are working to return to normal after devastating flooding forced the closure of schools, government buildings, and other essential services. On Wednesday, the area experienced an extraordinary amount of rainfall, equivalent to a month’s worth, in just one hour, resulting in streets in Fort Lauderdale resembling lakes due to over 2 feet of inundation. Fort Lauderdale Fire Rescue teams responded to an additional 250 calls for assistance on top of the 900 calls received during the previous day’s flooding, as reported by Fort Lauderdale Mayor Dean Trantalis.
The National Weather Service issued a flood watch for Miami-Dade and Broward counties late Thursday night. Though the heavy rain ended on Thursday, flooding remained, prompting officials to issue a flood warning for the Fort Lauderdale metro region that would last until 8am on Friday.
Late Thursday night, Fort Lauderdale city officials reported that heavy flooding had occurred in numerous streets that had previously been easily navigable due to earlier evening rainfall.
As a result, Fire Rescue personnel and police officers had to utilize boats and high-water vehicles to respond to calls for assistance. The flooding was so severe that it forced the closure of the Henry E. Kinney Tunnel, also known as the New River Tunnel, which carries U.S. Route 1 beneath the river and Las Olas Boulevard in downtown Fort Lauderdale, as confirmed by officials.
At a press conference with other local officials on Friday afternoon, Mayor Trantalis assured the public that no deaths had occurred from the floods. Two firemen were injured slightly by an electrical charge, but fortunately, they have already recovered.
First responders checked on people’s health and sheltered those who needed it even as floods retreated on Friday.
The head of Florida’s disaster management, Kevin Guthrie, called the flooding the second most disastrous incident he has seen in 33 years in the field. Only Hurricane Ian was worse.
As the floodwaters receded on Friday, first responders continued to conduct wellness checks and provide shelter to residents in need.
Flooding forced the closure of the Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport for around 40 hours before it reopened on Friday morning. Heavy rain, measuring over a foot in some spots, created quick flooding that stranded people in homes and made driving hazardous in the region. Passengers at the airport were also frustrated as they were unable to leave.
Fort Lauderdale Fire Rescue Battalion Chief Stephen Gollan stated that the situation involved individuals needing assistance, but there were no immediate life safety concerns. He explained that some individuals had become overwhelmed by the flooding and needed help escaping from flooded areas or homes.
According to Amelia Johnson, a spokesperson for the Florida Division of Emergency Management, there were 32 individuals counted in shelters on Thursday night. Additionally, as stated by Johnson, approximately 600 others sought assistance at a family reunification center where they received food and water.
As a result of the impacts of the flooding, Broward County Public Schools decided to cancel classes for the second consecutive day on Friday.
Apart from responding to numerous rescue calls, crews in the Fort Lauderdale metro area have been actively clearing drains and deploying pumps wherever feasible to mitigate the impact of the flooding.
Mayor Josh Levy of Hollywood, Florida, reported that his city had accumulated over a foot of rain in certain areas, experiencing consecutive days of incessant rainfall.
Due to the saturation of the ground, our city and South Florida are experiencing widespread flooding, rendering many roads impassable and resulting in numerous abandoned vehicles, he explained.
Expressing his astonishment, a lifelong resident remarked, “This is the most severe flooding I’ve witnessed in my entire life.”
In response to the situation, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has declared a state of emergency in Broward County. This declaration helps provide additional resources and assistance to local crews and residents.