South Floridians were stranded in flooded homes and businesses Friday as feeder bands from Tropical Storm Andrea drenched the area with rain that measured in the double-digits over the course of the day.
The storms dumped water on North Miami, Hallandale Beach, Hollywood and Dania Beach before and during rush hour, causing dozens of accidents, hundreds of cars stalled out and leaving thousands of commuters sitting in traffic.
Many police departments issued warnings, urging people who were home to not go out. And those already out were stuck for hours.
Mark Sturman, 53, went to Aventura Mall with his son for a 2 p.m. eye appointment, but at 8 p.m. was still there, waiting for the water to subside so they could leave.
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“It’s flooded everywhere,” said Sturman, of Plantation Acres. “There are tow-trucks everywhere.”
Sturman and his son Zach passed the time catching “The Internship” playing at the AMC theater, then having dinner. With rain still falling at 8 p.m., they were considering catching a second movie, but really, they just wanted to get out of there.
“We’ve been here since 2 o’clock,” Sturman said. “We just want to go home.”
Broward Sheriff Fire-Rescue spokesman Mike Jachles said the storm knocked out many traffic lights in the county and caused a number of accidents.
“You have to be careful about the water,” he said. “You can’t tell how deep water is by looking at it.”
When streets are flooded, he said, people sometimes drive into canals they can’t see.
Broward Sheriff’s Officers found a car entirely submerged at the intersection of Sheridan Street and Southeast Fifth Avenue in Dania Beach about 5:30 p.m., and sent out fire trucks to help Hallandale Beach residents whose homes had flooded.
Hallandale Beach, which recorded 13 inches of rain by 9 p.m., the city issued an emergency alert warning residents to stay off the roads if possible, and news footage showed streets under several feet of water and dotted with disabled vehicles.
Golden Beach and North Miami Beach each recorded even more rain: 15 inches.
National Weather Service meteorologist Dan Gregoria said all the rain came from a series of small storms coming together off the coast and circling over the area, a phenomenon known as a “training effect.”
“They’ve just been training and training over the coast,” he said. “We have this deep tropical moisture across South Florida, and this is what’s resulting.”
National Weather Service meteorologist Evelyn Rivera said Andrea’s lingering feeder bands were still streaming across portions of South Florida and some of them were blowing up as they approached the coast.
“The problem is the showers keep redeveloping,’’ she said.
The flooding impact from a far-away tropical system echoed last year’s Hurricane Isaac, which dumped nearly 18 inches of rain in western Palm Beach County while its center was hundreds of miles away in the Gulf of Mexico.
Water managers were monitoring the situation, said Randy Smith, a spokesman for the South Florida Water Management District.
But there wasn’t a lot they could do to speed drainage along the coast.
South Florida’s sprawling network of canals, pumps and gates was largely designed to protect inland suburbs and farms from flooding. Coastal cities, which tend to drain faster naturally, maintain their own storm water systems. Typically, most systems can handle about six inches of water in short periods. Beyond that, streets start to flood.
Smith said the district was trying to hold water in the western areas, helping ease pressure on coastal drainage canals already overwhelmed with runoff.
While the scattered storms are expected to continue Saturday, the weather should improve Sunday. Though, this being South Florida and June, rain showers are always a possibility.