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In just a few hours, Fort Lauderdale had about a foot of rain, which led to significant flooding, the closure of the airport, the closing of schools, and the suspension of high-speed commuter rail operations for the surrounding area of Broward County.
In a statement issued Wednesday night, the mayor of Fort Lauderdale urged locals and visitors to avoid the roads until the water had receded.
“Police and Fire Rescue continue to answer calls for service,” the statement said. “Public Works staff are clearing drains and operating pumps to mitigate the water as quickly as possible.”
One of the biggest school districts in the country, Broward County Public Campuses, which covers almost the entire Fort Lauderdale region, announced late Wednesday that all of its campuses will be closed Thursday.
Beginning around 4:15 p.m. Eastern time on Wednesday, the Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport suspended all incoming and leaving aircraft due to the nonstop rain. The airport announced late Wednesday night that it will probably be closed until at least noon on Thursday.
“The airport’s roadways are still closed and impacted by flooding,” the airport said in a statement.
Up to 14 inches of rain had fallen across the area through Wednesday and the National Weather Service said another 2 to 4 inches were possible as a warm front continued to push northward, bringing a chance of thunderstorms.
More than 12,000 customers in Florida were without electricity Wednesday night, according to PowerOutage.us.
The heavy rains also prompted South Florida’s high-speed commuter rail service to shut down. Brightline posted on Twitter Wednesday evening that train service between Miami and Fort Lauderdale was suspended.
The National Weather Service in Miami declared a flash flood emergency around 8 p.m. Wednesday for Fort Lauderdale, along with the areas around Hollywood and Dania Beach. A short time later, forecasters issued a tornado warning for nearby Davie, Plantation and Lauderhill.
The service also issued a flash flood emergency for Fort Lauderdale and other areas will run into pre-dawn hours Thursday as the chance of thunderstorms continued across the region, warning: “This is a life-threatening situation. Seek higher ground now!”
Video taken by witnesses showed water coming in the door at an airport terminal and a virtual river rushing down the tarmac between planes.
On Broward Boulevard, a man was seen swimming to the curb on the flooded street at rush hour as cars rolled by.
Drivers recorded themselves rolling through streets where brown, swirling water was up to the wheel wells or nearly to the hood of cars.
There have been no immediate reports of injuries or deaths.