Tropical rainstorm brings torrential downpours, flooding to Miami

WEATHER NEWS: Tropical rainstorm brings torrential downpours, flooding to Miami

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It’s not named Alex yet, but a waterlogged tropical rainstorm has drenched and flooded parts of South Florida. Up to 10 inches of rain inundated Miami between Friday and Saturday morning, turning downtown streets into rivers and submerging vehicles.

Flash flood warnings covered much of the Broward and Miami-Dade coastlines early Saturday, in effect through around midday, including Miami, Hollywood, Fort Lauderdale and Boca Raton. Widespread totals of 5 to 8 inches have fallen, with a few locales registering more than 10 inches.

While the tropical disturbance responsible for the torrents has not yet earned a name, it is predicted to become Tropical Storm Alex by late Saturday or Sunday — once it crosses the Florida Peninsula and enters the Atlantic Ocean.

The disturbance, centered near the southwest coast of Florida on Saturday morning, is forecast to generate heavy rain over the southern peninsula through around midday Saturday with “considerable flash and urban flooding,” according to the National Hurricane Center. After that, showers should become more intermittent and eventually taper off.

Significant flooding was reported in downtown Miami on Friday night into early Saturday as a result of the disturbance, with roadways becoming inundated under several feet of water.

“At this time @CityofMiamiFire is responding to multiple calls of cars stuck in the water,” tweeted a public information officer with the City of Miami-Fire Rescue early Saturday. “Please stay off the road and do not drive through floods.”

Videos posted to social media depicted vehicles submerged to their hoods, in some cases still continuing to drive through flooded roadways. Other cars were completely stranded.

Nearly a foot of rain has been measured in downtown Miami, where an observer reported emptying an 11-inch rain gauge while downpours continued to soak the region. As of 9 a.m. Eastern time, here were some of the top rainfall reports:

  • 11.05 inches, Miami
  • 10.98 inches, Biscayne Park
  • 9.70 inches, Key Largo
  • 9.36 inches, Palmetto Bay
  • 9.08 inches, Coral Terrace
  • 8.83 inches, Margate
  • 8.82 inches, Lindgren Acres, Miami-Dade
  • 8.14 inches, Naples

A general 4 to 6 inches fell between Fort Myers and West Palm Beach, with amounts quickly dropping off north of there. Most of the greater Tampa area saw a half-inch to an inch, with a trace to a tenth of an inch in the Orlando metro.

The southern cutoff to the rainfall was equally sharp, with 1 to 3 inches in the Lower Keys and nearly 10 for the Upper Keys.

The tropical rainstorm triggered serious flooding Friday in western and central Cuba, where at least two people died, according to the BBC.

The system was partially born from the remnants of Hurricane Agatha, blamed for at least nine deaths in southern Mexico, where it was the strongest storm on record to make landfall during May.

One more slug of moderate to heavy rainfall was drenching South Florida on Saturday morning. It was moving into the metro areas of Miami and Fort Lauderdale around 10:30 a.m., with rainfall rates of 1 to 2 inches per hour.

Thereafter, the storm looks to wind down in terms of actual impacts and precipitation stateside. It will scrape the northwestern Bahamas as it heads out to sea, potentially strengthening some before weakening on approach to, or passing just north of, Bermuda.

The tropical rainstorm dousing South Florida contains maximum winds up to 40 mph, while tornadic waterspouts have been spinning ominously through the nearshore waters. For all intents and purposes, South Florida has been dealing with tropical storm conditions.

Structurally, however, the system doesn’t fit the bill it needs to get a name, and it’s not until after the swirling storm’s center makes it east of Florida that it is likely to meet the requirements. But tropical storm warnings remain in effect for the west coast of Florida from Bonita Beach to Card Sound Bridge, the east coast of Florida south of the Volusia/Brevard County Line to Card Sound Bridge and parts of the northwestern Bahamas.

The requirements for a system to be designated a tropical storm and receive a name are rigid. Winds must be sustained at 39 mph or greater within the storm, and there must also exist a cohesive central vortex.

The former criterion has been met, but the latter has not: There is a swirl discernible in the low-level cumulus field, as is visible below, but it doesn’t extend vertically.

In fact, there is hardly any concentrated circulation in the upper-level winds as derived by a satellite-mounted scatterometer, or a device that ascertains wind by tracking cloud and ocean wave moments. “The system has gone the wrong way in becoming a tropical cyclone,” the Hurricane Center wrote early Saturday.

The Hurricane Center does expect Alex to finally form late Saturday into Sunday. Computer models call for the disturbance to “develop and maintain a more familiar tropical cyclone-like structure as it heads northeastward and east-northeastward over the western Atlantic through Monday,” the center wrote.

Jason Samenow contributed to this report.

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