Weather

Heavy rains flood South Florida; not expected to let up anytime soon

 

ebenn@MiamiHerald.com

After three days of South Florida downpours and more on the way, summer-camp coordinator Alyssa Williams had run out of ideas by Wednesday.

“I’ve got 70 kids here who have been pent up inside all week,” said Williams, who runs Step Up Summer Camp for 5- to 12-year-olds in Kendall. “We’ve been watching movies, doing all sorts of arts and crafts. By today, they’re pretty antsy to get outside.”

Sorry, kids: Forecasters say wet weather will stick around at least on Thursday and possibly through the weekend. Storms will continue to threaten the area with significant local accumulations over the next few days, according to the National Weather Service in Miami.

“This pattern is not your normal afternoon showers and thunderstorms,” forecaster Brad Diehl said. “These conditions are much more moist than usual. This potential for heavy rain at any time is not typical, even in the rainy season.”

Northeast Miami-Dade and Southeast Broward counties received the brunt of Wednesday’s deluge and were under flood advisories for a good part of the day. Miami Shores was hit with about 6 inches of rain, Diehl said, while Oakland Park and Tamarac recorded anywhere from 2.5 to 4 inches. One weather service reading in Hialeah put that area’s total at 8 inches.

Persistent morning storms and lingering afternoon flare-ups snarled Wednesday’s commute for many South Floridians.

South Miami resident Seth Furman said he had a white-knuckle drive to work, navigating standing water on parts of Interstate 95 northbound.

“Hydroplaning occurred multiple times as huge puddles were forming along the interstate,” he said. “Essentially, it was the most challenging commute I’ve ever had in Miami.”

Flooding prompted Broward Sheriff’s Office deputies to shut down parts of Prospect Road and Northeast Sixth Avenue in Oakland Park. Drivers on the Gratigny Parkway in North Miami-Dade had to deal with flooded westbound lanes and a standstill for eastbound traffic.

“The Gratigny at 32nd Avenue is literally a lake,” said Nannette Rodriguez, a Miami Beach spokeswoman who said her usual 30-minute commute from Pembroke Pines to the Beach had stretched over two hours Wednesday. “Even where it’s not flooded, people are driving very slow, being very cautious.”

Foul weather delayed about 43 flights and forced three cancellations Wednesday at Miami International Airport, communications director Greg Chin said. Aviation website FlightStats.com reported 57 delays and one cancellation at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport.

In South Beach, typical flood-problem spots like Alton Road and 10th Street, parts of Bay Road, and the Sunset Harbor strip adjacent to Biscayne Bay all sat under standing water for parts of the day.

Multiple car crashes had been reported throughout South Florida on Wednesday as officials urged people to exercise caution on the roads. Many used their four-way hazard lights while driving on roadways — that’s illegal in Florida and can actually cause accidents, police say.

Radar-generated estimates from the South Florida Water Management District showed the Upper Keys were the wettest spot in the region, recording up to 10 inches of rain since Tuesday morning.

This month certainly has been rainier than usual in South Florida.

Miami-Dade and Broward counties average about 6.5 inches of rain in July, according to historical data from the water management district from 1981 through 2010. Before Wednesday’s soaking, both counties had already exceeded that amount: 7.68 inches in Miami-Dade and 7.85 inches in Broward so far this month.

PROJECTS SLOWED

All of that rain has put a damper on some major road-construction projects.

“There are certain operations that can’t be done in the rain, like placing concrete, paving asphalt, working with lime rock,” said Oscar Gonzalez, a Florida Department of Transportation spokesman who is helping to oversee a massive linking of two busy highways: State Road 826 (the Palmetto) and State Road 836 (the Dolphin).

“I would call it a temporary delay. Obviously, it sets us back a bit, but nothing major,” he said, noting that the department takes inclement weather into consideration for its timeline estimates, and that the 826-836 project is still on target for a 2015 completion.

Another big road-construction endeavor — overhauling the Miami Beach flyover that connects the MacArthur Causeway to Alton Road — had a weather-related hiccup this week when rain pushed back the project’s start from Sunday night to Monday night. On Wednesday, FDOT crews trudged on, despite the weather.

“They’re out there, working in the rain, trying to get as much done as possible,” project spokeswoman Heather Leslie said.

Diehl’s forecast calls for “more of the same” for the rest of the week.

“There will be relief at some points, but it’s a pretty frustrating forecast with lots of gloom and doom,” he said. “The bottom line is: You can’t let your guard down yet.”

MORE RAIN LIKELY

Diehl said there is about a 75 percent chance of rain Thursday, with heavy, isolated thunderstorms possible. Highs will be in the mid-80s and lows in the low-70s — as if you’ll be going outside anytime soon.

In Doral, where the weather service reported up to 6 inches of rain Wednesday, flooded streets along Northwest 79th Avenue meant a slow business day for many of the tile and marble shops that line that corridor.

Barbara Acosta, a sales representative at General Ceramic Tiles and Stones, said she had no walk-in customers to speak of. She even had to find another means to get to work.

“My husband had to bring me in a bigger car,” she said.

Miami Herald photojournalist Walter Michot and staff writers Curtis Morgan, Christina Veiga, Jordan Levin, Joey Flechas and Charlene Pacenti contributed to this report.

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