Florida Flooding Emergency Worsens as More Rain Lands on Miami

By Brian K. Sullivan and Michelle Ma | June 13, 2024

Florida is in a state of emergency after downpours flooded Miami streets, soaked Fort Lauderdale with its rainiest June day ever, grounded hundreds of flights and forced officials to issue rare emergency flood warnings. And on Thursday more rain is on the way, likely pushing losses over $1 billion.

In the worst case as much as 4 to 6 inches of rain may fall on soaked ground across southern Florida, leading to more flooding, said Sammy Hadi, a National Weather Service meteorologist in Miami. There may be isolated spots that get even more.

On Wednesday, 9.54 inches fell in Fort Lauderdale, the most ever for a June day. The downpour closed ramps to the airport and flooded city streets. The wider deluge led parts of Interstate-95 to be closed, hundreds of flights to be canceled and Governor Ron DeSantis to declare an emergency in several counties including Miami-Dade, Broward, Collier, Lee and Sarasota.

People navigate a downpour in Miami Beach. Photographer: Joe Raedle/Getty Images North America

The rain fell so hard and fast that it forced the weather service to issue its second-ever emergency flood warning for southern Florida’s east coast, Hadi said. The National Hurricane Center is tracking the system responsible, but says it has not yet reached the level of a tropical storm.

“Regardless of whether it has a name or not, if it drops 9 inches in 24 hours there are going to be big problems,” Hadi said.

Damages are likely to top out at $1 billion or more, said Chuck Watson, a disaster modeler with Enki Research. That said, given the rising cost of homes and automobiles, storms are causing that scale of destruction more often.

Parallels are already being drawn to an April 2023 event that also flooded the Fort Lauderdale region and cost at least $1.1 billion in losses. It closed the city’s airport and brought more than 25 inches of rain in 24 hours, according to the US National Centers for Environmental Information.

The ocean around Florida is at a record warmth in some areas and the atmosphere is holding tremendous amounts of water vapor. In Miami on Wednesday, measurements recorded the second highest amount of moisture in the air for a June day, according to a Substack post by Michael Lowry, a hurricane specialist at WPLG-TV in Miami and former US National Hurricane Center scientist.

“With plenty of heat at hand, and so much water vapor, it didn’t take much of a disturbance to trigger heavy rains,” said Bob Henson, a meteorologist and author with Yale Climate Connections. “Getting two events in less than 15 months should be wake-up call for anyone who’s been dozing through the overlapping insurance and climate crises in South Florida.”

With more rain on the way, 246 flights have already been canceled in Miami, Fort Lauderdale and other Florida airports, according to FlightAware, an airline tracking service.

Top photo: Vehicles make their way through a flooded street in Miami Beach, Florida, on June 12. Photographer: Joe Raedle/Getty Images.

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