Tropical Disturbance Disrupts Florida, Delays Stanley Cup Travel

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A tropical disturbance unfurled its fury on Southern Florida on Wednesday, transforming streets into rivers, stranding vehicles in its wake, and causing delays for the Florida Panthers who were making their way to Canada for the Stanley Cup games against the Edmonton Oilers.

As it so happened, the tumultuous storm system made its landfall from the Gulf of Mexico, just as the hurricane season of early June was rearing its head – a season that is predicted to be one of the most active and potent in recent memory due to climate change ramping storm extremities.

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The disturbance, which has not achieved cyclone status as of yet, has been given minimal odds of mutating into a tropical system once it ventures into the Atlantic Ocean, having traversed Florida, stated the National Hurricane Center.

Don’t let its lack of official status fool you however, as the weather anomaly has already caused widespread chaos. “Regardless of development, heavy rainfall is forecast to continue across portions of the Florida peninsula during the next few days,” warned the hurricane center in a post on its website Wednesday.

Roads morphed into impassable waterways under the onslaught of the heavy rain, with throngs of vehicles stranded and left to the mercy of the elements. A critical infraction point was the major artery – Interstate 95 in Broward County where southbound traffic was rerouted around a flooded segment. Contractors were dispatched to engage the drainage system, a message imparted by the Florida Highway Patrol via email. The artery remained blocked until the water was successfully drained.

Sounding the calamity alarm, the Miami weather service office posted increasingly desperate warnings, one of which read “Life-threatening flooding is now ongoing… Please stay off the roadways and get to higher ground.”

Emergency status was declared by the Mayors of Fort Lauderdale and Hollywood mid-Wednesday, a move mirrored by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis for five counties later in the day including Miami-Dade and Broward on the Atlantic coast and Collier, Lee, and Sarasota on the west coast. The Mayor of Miami-Dade County, Daniella Levine Cava, also declared a local state of emergency.

“Due to ongoing heavy rainfall, several roadways throughout the City of Fort Lauderdale, including major thoroughfares like Broward Boulevard and Federal Highway near downtown are experiencing high water levels,” stated Fort Lauderdale Mayor Dean Trantalis.

In adjacent Hollywood, resident Mike Viesel and his dog Humi were ensnared in deep floodwaters on a low-lying street. As he retreated and halted, Viesel narrates other vehicles bypassing him, exacerbating the situation by pushing yet more water into his car and stalling the engine.

Miami’s Edgewater local, Alfredo Rodriguez revealed that his building, into which he relocated but a year prior, had already started to flood on Wednesday morning. This was the fifth incident of flooding since he moved into the building he confessed to the Miami Herald.

Inundations continued to disrupt daily life as multiple flights were postponed or canceled at the Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport. The plight of the NHL’s Florida Panthers continued as the hockey team was delayed upwards of three hours for their near six-hour long flight to Edmonton to contest Games 3 and 4 of the Stanley Cup Final.

The calamity reached a crescendo with a confirmed EF-1 tornado in Hobe Sound on Florida’s Atlantic Coast north of West Palm Beach, causing a swath of banyan trees to collapse and damaging a store. Though no casualties were reported, debris rendered inaccessible the access to Jupiter Island.

The last week has already seen its fair share of stormy weather, with Miami receiving about 6 inches of rainfall and Hollywood experiencing about 5 inches of precipitation. Bryan McNoldy of the University of Miami Rosenstiel School observed 9 inches of rainfall having washed over parts of Southern Florida from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Wednesday. “We are in trouble,” McNoldy wrote.

As the week progresses, an onslaught of rain continues to be forecast, leading to a flash flood watch, extended through Thursday by the weather service office in Miami. Some areas may expect to be doused with an additional 6 inches of rain.

The western side of the state already in the throes of a prolonged drought, was granted some relief through extensive rainfall. Sarasota Bradenton International Airport reported nearly 6.5 inches of rain on Tuesday, with flash flood warnings continuing to remain in effect in various areas.

Forecasts offer ominous predictions of a busier-than-average hurricane season. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration estimates an 85% chance of the Atlantic hurricane season being above average, suggesting 17 to 25 named storms, potentially 13 hurricanes, and up to four major hurricanes in the coming months.

Earlier in April 2023, Fort Lauderdale experienced an onslaught of record rainfall, with measurements ranging from 15 to 26 inches resulting in widespread flooding of homes and businesses.