'Exceedingly rare' flash flood emergency issued in South Florida. Catastrophic damage possible

Devoun Cetoute, Miami Herald on

Published in Weather News

MIAMI — Life-threatening rainfall pummeling South Florida that’s closed I-95 and caused major delays at the region’s two largest airports Wednesday is now being considered a flash flood emergency — an “exceedingly rare” circumstance classified by forecasters when catastrophic damage is imminent.

Around 3:40 p.m., the National Weather Service issued a flash flood emergency for portions of southern Broward County and northern Miami-Dade County. The emergency is in effect until 8:00 pm.

Cities under the emergency advisory are: Miami Gardens, North Miami Beach, Pembroke Pines, Hollywood, Miramar and Dania Beach. Other urban city centers in both counties will see the greatest threat of flash flooding.

Forecasters say they’ve received “nonstop” reports of flash flooding. The NWS has six flash flood warnings in effect throughout the region.

Residents are being told not to drive in the emergency area and to seek higher ground until flood waters recede.

So far this week, parts of South Florida have seen up to 10 inches of rain. The deluge on Wednesday forced the closure of Interstate 95 due to flash flooding and hours-long delays at both Miami International Airport and Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport.

What is a flash flood emergency?

A flash flood emergency is the most severe weather category for flooding. An emergency is only issued in exceedingly rare situations when extremely heavy rain is leading to a severe threat to life and catastrophic damage, the weather service said.

Luke Culver, a meteorologist at NWS Miami, said the emergency “is really for extremely rare situations where there are dangers to life and property.“


“When we go to an emergency, we have people getting rescued from vehicles and particularly dangerous and life-threatening situations,” he said.

John Morales, a consulting meteorologist, said on X that the first flash flood emergency issued by National Weather Service Miami was for a record-breaking rainstorm in the Fort Lauderdale area in April 2023.

At the time, 31 inches of rain in more than three days and 26 inches in one day transformed the Fort Lauderdale airport into a waterway.

North of the airport, in the Edgewood area that had just received bigger pipes as part of a project to better deal with flooding, water levels rose to near waist-deep levels, pushing into homes.


(Miami Herald reporter David J. Neal contributed to this report.)


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