Broward County, Florida: Severe flooding as Fort Lauderdale area faces record rainfall

(CNN) Fort Lauderdale and parts of South Florida were inundated Wednesday night by a once-in-a-half-century downpour, prompting a flash flood emergency in Broward County and one mayor calling the deluge “the worst flood I’ve ever seen.” Ever seen.”

About 10 to 14 inches of rain fell across the region Wednesday, and an additional two to four inches are possible as heavy thunderstorms move slowly.

Fort Lauderdale is “experiencing severe flooding in many areas of the city,” Fort Lauderdale Fire Rescue said on social media, warning vehicles to stay off roadways as they could become trapped or drown.

A flash flood warning — the highest flood warning — has been issued for parts of South Florida, including Fort Lauderdale. National Weather Service (NWS) Wednesday night at Miami.

“This is an especially dangerous situation,” the NWS warned. “Get to higher ground now! This is a very dangerous and life-threatening situation. Do not attempt to travel until you are out of an area subject to flooding or an evacuation order.”

Hollywood Mayor Josh Levy told CNN that “city crews are doing everything they can” to use pumps wherever possible and keep drains clear.

“We’ve recorded 12 inches of rain since midnight, on top of days of non-stop rain,” Levy said. “There is extensive flooding in our city and across South Florida as the ground is already saturated. Many roads are impassable. Numerous vehicles are stranded and abandoned in the middle of our roads.

“I’ve lived here all my life. This is the worst flood I’ve ever seen,” he said.

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Officials are asking residents to avoid driving or traveling in Fort Lauderdale this evening.

“Continuously responding to calls for police and fire rescue services,” it said City of Fort Lauderdale said in a press release on Wednesday evening. “Public works crews are clearing drains and running pumps to quickly reduce the water. Efforts are underway to reduce traffic congestion with a prioritized signal to assist people leaving the city. We ask drivers to stay off the roads and avoid the city of Fort Lauderdale until the water recedes.”

The flooding affected rush-hour traffic and led to the closure of one subway, the city said.

“The Henry E. Kinney Tunnel is closed. Please avoid the area. Weather conditions combined with rush hour traffic are increasing problems in the downtown area,” the city said.

The Broward Sheriff’s Office said in a statement Wednesday that it has been “inundated with non-emergency 911 calls related to severe weather” and is urging residents to use 911 only for “true emergencies” and to avoid driving and call a tow truck. Company if a vehicle is stranded and not in an emergency.

Some local services are closed on Thursday. Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport is closed due to flooding and will reopen at noon. According to an update from the airport, and the Broward County Public Schools District announced the closure Thursday.

Rainfall totals in and around the Fort Lauderdale area Wednesday represented at least a 1-in-50-year rainfall event, according to a CNN analysis of National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration precipitation statistics as of 9 p.m. ET Wednesday. 12 inches in 24 hours.

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There may be more rain in some places. According to the latest flash flood emergency issued by the NWS in Miami, up to 20 inches of rain could fall in some areas, corresponding to at least a 1 in 200-year rainfall event.

Preliminary 24-hour rainfall indicates that many cities and suburbs have been affected. As of Wednesday night, 11.09 inches of rain had fallen in Fort Lauderdale, 12.21 inches in Lauderhill and 13.92 inches in Tania Beach.

A flash flood emergency is in effect for central Broward County until 2 a.m. Thursday.

CNN’s Brandon Miller, Robert Shackelford, Sarah Weisfeld, Devon Sayers contributed to this report.

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