A torrential downpour deluged Fort Lauderdale with 20 inches of rain on Wednesday, resulting in grounded flights, stranded travelers, and a temporary closure at Fort Lauderdale Hollywood International Airport (FLL). The airport is expected to remain closed through Friday.Runways and taxiways at the airport were swamped with up to a foot of water as Fort Lauderdale received “about 1/3 of its annual rainfall in seven hours,” according to meteorologist Bob Henson. That, combined with “heavy rain and windy conditions,” forced the airport to close to all arriving and departing flights shortly after 3 p.m.
More perspective: the annual average rainfall at FLL (1991-2020) is 68.77″. So the city apparently got about 1/3 of its annual rainfall in seven hours today. Desert climates can sometimes do this (rarely), but it’s astonishing to see it happen in a moist climate like SoFla’s.
— Bob Henson (@bhensonweather) April 13, 2023
The rainfall appears to have eclipsed FLL’s previous single-day record of 14.59 inches, set in 1979. Flooding on the arrival and departure roadways—and the blockage caused by stalled cars—trapped passengers inside the airport for hours. Videos posted by the passengers showed water seeping into the terminal through automatic doors.
Furthermore, drivers who had come to pick up travelers were caught in a predicament as the water level rose on the roads leading to the airport, leaving them stranded inside their vehicles.
— Thomas Kennedy (@tomaskenn) April 12, 2023
“While stalled vehicles are being removed from the upper/lower levels, the main exit artery remains flooded & congested with slow-moving traffic,” the airport tweeted Wednesday evening.
The departures roadway on the upper level reopened shortly after 2 a.m., allowing travelers to leave the facility. However, as of Thursday morning, the lower arrivals roadway remained closed, and aerial footage revealed that tarmacs were still underwater. Just before 11 a.m., the airport announced it would remain closed “due to the flooding and debris on FLL’s airfields.”
The airport is expected to remain closed through 5 a.m. Friday morning, “providing current conditions do not worsen.” Rain and isolated thunderstorms are forecasted in Fort Lauderdale throughout the afternoon.
— Brooke Silverang (@WPBF_BROOKE) April 13, 2023
“We ask for your patience as we wait to safely assess the impacts of this unprecedented rainfall to restore airport operations when it is safe to do so,” the airport said in a statement on social media.
“Most hurricanes do not produce such extreme rainfall totals, for comparison,” tweeted meteorologist Craig Ceecee.
The unprecedented deluge caused chaos throughout the Fort Lauderdale area, stranding drivers on roadways, knocking out power, and shuttering Fort Lauderdale City Hall and Broward County Schools.
Josh Mayor, mayor of nearby Hollywood, told CNN he’d never seen comparable flooding. “The ground was already saturated so there is extensive flooding all over our city and throughout South Florida. Many roadways are impassable. Lots of vehicles got stuck and left abandoned in the middle of our roadways,” he said. “I’ve lived here my whole life. This is the most severe flooding that I’ve ever seen.”
Fort Lauderdale–Hollywood International Airport (FLL/KFLL) is shut down completely, No arrivals or departure , as the Airport is flooded and unofficially shows 25″ of rain over the last 24 hours.#airport #pouring #rain #travel pic.twitter.com/sZDR4JBtRs
— FL360aero (@fl360aero) April 13, 2023
Crews are working to unblock drains and pump out standing water, but drivers were asked to stay off roadways until they’re clear.
Brightline, South Florida’s high-speed commuter rail, was also impacted, with service between Miami and Fort Lauderdale suspended on Wednesday evening. Trains had resumed running by 8 a.m. on Thursday.
A flash flood warning from the National Weather Service remains in place for the region until 4 p.m. on Thursday.