(CNN) — Fort Lauderdale experienced the rainiest day in its history Wednesday — a 1-in-1,000-year rainfall event — sparking a flash flood emergency in Broward County that has prompted emergency rescues, forced drivers to abandon cars, shuttered schools and shut down the airport through Thursday morning. And more rain is on the way.
The region recorded widespread rainfall totals of more than a foot, while Fort Lauderdale tallied 25.91 inches in a 24-hour period, according to preliminary reports from the National Weather Service office in Miami.
While the rain Thursday won’t reach nearly the amounts that fell on Wednesday, it will be problematic and create additional flooding, the National Weather Service said. Gusty winds, small hail and even isolated tornadoes are possible.
A flood warning is in effect for portions of Broward County until noon Thursday. A flood watch is in effect through Thursday evening.
Between 14 and 20 inches of rain have drenched the greater Fort Lauderdale metro area since Wednesday afternoon, according to a Thursday morning update from the National Weather Service office in Miami. The deluge is the “most severe flooding that I’ve ever seen,” one mayor said.
“This amount of rain in a 24-hour period is incredibly rare for South Florida,” said meteorologist Ana Torres-Vazquez from the weather service’s Miami forecast office.
Rainfall of 20 to 25 inches is similar to what the area can receive with a high-end hurricane over more than a day, Torres-Vazquez explained. She described the rainfall as a “1-in-1,000 year event, or greater,” meaning it’s an event so intense, the chance of it happening in any given year is just 0.1%.
During the peak of Wednesday’s deluge, a month’s worth of rain fell in just one hour. Fort Lauderdale’s average rainfall for April is 3 inches and it’s been nearly 25 years since the city totaled 20 inches of rain in an entire month.
Extreme rainfall is a signature consequence of a warming climate, and it is happening more frequently. The deluge in South Florida is just the latest instance after 1-in-1000 year rains struck over the past year in areas including Dallas, St. Louis, eastern Kentucky and Yellowstone.
“Even though the heavy rain has concluded, numerous roads remain closed,” the weather service said, adding that flooding is expected to persist.
Earlier, Fort Lauderdale was “experiencing severe flooding in multiple areas of the city,” Fort Lauderdale Fire Rescue said on social media, warning to stay off the roads as vehicles may become stuck or submerged.
A flash flood emergency — the highest level of flood warning — that was in effect for portions of South Florida, including Fort Lauderdale, expired early Thursday.
City crews in Hollywood, Florida, “are doing everything they can” to deploy pumps wherever possible and keep drains clear, Mayor Josh Levy told CNN.
“We’ve recorded over 12 inches of rain since midnight, and that’s on top of consecutive days of seemingly nonstop rain,” Levy said. “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.
“I’ve lived here my whole life. This is the most severe flooding that I’ve ever seen,” he said.
More rain and storms expected Thursday
South Florida could get inundated with more even rain as showers and strong storms are in the forecast Thursday.
“After a historic day of rainfall across portions of South Florida that many of us will not soon forget, another potential wet day is ahead for today,” the weather service in Miami said.
There is a slight risk, Level 2 of 5, for severe storms Thursday in parts of Florida, including Fort Lauderdale, Miami and Jacksonville, according to the Storm Prediction Center.
In Fort Lauderdale, airboats and high-clearance buggies have been secured from the county sheriff’s office and the Florida Wildlife Commission as officials activated their emergency operations center and will issue a proclamation of a local state of emergency, they said in a statement early Thursday.
Emergency crews worked continuously overnight responding to rescue calls across South Florida, Fort Lauderdale city officials said.
“City Hall remains closed. The ground floor is flooded, and staff is working to restore power to the building,” said a Thursday morning update.
City officials are asking neighbors to be patient as “flooding conditions remain impactful in the southern areas of the City this morning,” officials said.
“We expect the flooding to subside through the next hours and have seen improvements in certain areas of downtown.”
It’s unclear how many people have been rescued due to flooding.
Officials had asked residents to avoid driving or traveling in Fort Lauderdale amid the storms.
“Public Works staff are clearing drains and operating pumps to mitigate the water as quickly as possible. Efforts have been made to relieve traffic congestion through prioritized signaling to assist individuals leaving the City. We are requesting drivers to stay off the roads and avoid the City of Fort Lauderdale until the water has subsided,” the city of Fort Lauderdale said in a news release on Wednesday evening.
The Florida Highway Patrol has closed several exits on Interstate 95 in Fort Lauderdale, the city’s fire department said.
In Coral Gables in Miami-Dade County, officials are working on two water main breaks, according to the Coral Gables Police Department.
Some roads in the city are shut down due to the flooding, while others have limited travel, police said, noting residents should give themselves extra time to commute to work.
The Broward Sheriff’s Office said in a statement Wednesday it is “being inundated with non-emergency 911 calls regarding the inclement weather” and asks residents to use 911 only for “true emergencies,” also telling residents to avoid driving and to call a tow truck company if a vehicle is stranded and not in an emergency.
Some local services are shuttering Thursday. The Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport is closed due to ongoing flooding in the vicinity and will reopen at noon, according to an update from the airport. The airport’s departure level reopened to allow people to exit the area, the airport said early Thursday morning.
The Brightline train service has been temporarily suspended between Miami and Fort Lauderdale, the service said on social media.
Additionally, Broward County Public Schools announced the district will close Thursday.
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