ORLANDO — The first tropical threat of Florida’s hurricane season swept across the state overnight Friday, leaving South Florida residents and local officials to deal with flooding, power outages, stranded vehicles and hours of cleanup that impacted some businesses.
In Miami, drivers faced torrential rain and flooded roads in the early hours of Saturday morning. The city’s fire department responded to several people trapped in cars amid the rising water. Six flood vehicles in action in the city, the department said on Twitter. Winds of 40 miles per hour did not reach the threshold required for the system to be classified as Tropical Storm Alex, but they sloshed water downtown, including in condominium parking lots.
According to Accuweather, the storm brought more than 10 inches of rain to Miami over a 72-hour period, but other areas, including Key Largo (11 inches) and Biscayne Park (11.6), recorded higher totals. Flooding was also reported in communities outside of Miami, including Hialeah and Hollywood, and in Naples, Florida on the Gulf Coast.
However, blackouts did not increase overnight. As of 9 a.m. Saturday, Miami-Dade County had 4,083 outages, according to PowerOutage.us, although that number had dropped to 1,310 by 11:30 a.m. Surrounding counties of Broward and Palm Beach reported 985 and 214, respectively.
In western Collier County, home to densely populated Naples, 226 outages were reported as of 9 a.m. but only two by 11:30 a.m. Lee County, farther north along the Gulf Coast, had 47. By midday, all tropical warnings were lifted across most of Southwest Florida as the storm hit the Treasure Coast in the southeastern region, according to the National Weather Service.
Although meteorologists said the storm never fully organized as it moved from the Gulf of Mexico toward the Keys (it could still get stronger as it leaves the Atlantic Seaboard, they said), it doesn’t take much rain to start chaos Cause Miami – especially on a weekend evening when many are out and about.
Goncalo Gil, 26, stayed indoors when the streets in front of his apartment in Miami’s Brickell neighborhood were blocked with water. Mr. Gil, a student pilot who posted video of flooded streets on Twitter, wondered if the city’s flood control system, which included stormwater pumps and levees, had worked as intended. “From midnight everything was flooded, every car was stopped,” he said.
Kash Kashmiri, 30, arrived at Total Nutrition in Brickell at 10am to find a customer waiting for him outside. The store manager saw water in the entrance area and was afraid to let anyone in. Mr. Kashmiri offered to assemble the products the customer needed and conduct a cash transaction at the front door. The customer helped carry sandbags while they waited, then paid for a selection of protein donuts, healthy snacks and energy drinks.
Mr Kashmiri said he had to turn away other customers because they had no cash. But he added that some flooding is pretty normal for Miami. “Normal is down here where there’s a heavy storm, you can expect some light flooding,” he said on the phone. “Any type of tropical storm, you can certainly expect flooding.”
More than two hours into his shift, the rain picked up again and he noticed people in the area tying down furniture.
Warnings of possible weather risks remained in place for the weekend.
“The biggest threat right now is the potential for heavy rains and flash flooding,” Maria Torres, a spokeswoman for the National Hurricane Center in Miami, said Friday.
Early Saturday, the center warned of “significant flash flooding and urban flooding” in South Florida.
Rainfall totals associated with the storm were expected to be far-reaching. Western Cuba could see up to 14 inches of rain with the possibility of life-threatening flash floods and mudslides, meteorologists said. Some areas of the northwestern Bahamas could see as far as 10 inches.
The Florida forecast included the possibility of tornadoes over the southern part of the state through Saturday. The Hurricane Center also said some cities in the state could experience storm surges of up to three feet.
People who live in parts of South Florida that are prone to flooding should find a safe place to turn to if the water starts to rise and be careful not to drive through standing water, Ms Torres said on Friday.
“Turn around, don’t drown,” she said.
Hurricane Agatha, the first named storm in the eastern Pacific, swept across Mexico this week as a Category 2 storm with heavy rain and damaging winds. At least nine people were killed and five others were missing, said the governor of the southern state of Oaxaca, Alejandro Murat, on Friday morning.
Concerns about dangerous Atlantic weather began this week when forecasters said a large area of disrupted weather related to the remnants of Hurricane Agatha had formed near the Yucatán Peninsula and interacted with an upper trough over the Gulf of Mexico .
Meteorologists expect an “above average” Atlantic hurricane season lasting through November 30, with 14 to 21 named storms considered likely. Up to 10 of them are said to reach hurricane strength.
Alanis Thames, Nick Madigan and Jesus Jiménez contributed coverage.