Fear of flooding: Homeowners brace for ‘crazy, crazy storm’ in Fort Lauderdale and beyond

It’s deja vu all over again.

The rain just keeps on coming.

And some people are getting that same old feeling of dread as the floodwater creeps toward the door.

It happened last year to Beverly Freeman in Fort Lauderdale, where hundreds of homes were damaged by floodwaters from a record-breaking rainstorm that hit in mid-April. And it happened again on Wednesday — although this time there was no frog swimming through 4 feet of standing water in Freeman’s living room.

Freeman is not alone.

This week, a relentless deluge is bringing buckets of rain dangerously close to doorsteps in flood-prone neighborhoods from Fort Lauderdale to Hollywood, Dania Beach and Hallandale Beach.

Here are the rainfall counts over a two-day period ending at 4 a.m. Thursday: 19.39 inches in Hallandale Beach; 19.10 inches in Hollywood; 11.58 inches in Fort Lauderdale and 10.65 inches in Dania Beach.

Fort Lauderdale has not yet tallied the number of homes with flood damage, Mayor Dean Trantalis said.

“It’s premature to be counting,” he said. “We’re getting 10 to 12 inches starting at 3 p.m. today (Thursday). There’s a new band of storms heading our way. And we’re bracing for the worst.”

Freeman, who lives in River Oaks, says she’s as ready as she can possibly be.

“I have 30 sandbags,” she said Thursday. “I had them delivered Tuesday morning. I have a drain in front of my house. The water from the swale was going into the drain. Then at 3 p.m. the water started coming up the front lawn and all the way into my front door.”

Those sandbags helped soak up most of the water.

“Thank God I didn’t get more in my house,” Freeman said. “But there’s more rain coming today. It’s very nerve-wracking.”

Water floods a street in the Edgewood neighborhood of Fort Lauderdale on Thursday. The same neighborhood flooded during a record-breaking rainstorm on April 12, 2023. (Joe Cavaretta/South Florida Sun Sentinel)
Water floods a street in the Edgewood neighborhood of Fort Lauderdale on Thursday. The same neighborhood flooded during a record-breaking rainstorm on April 12, 2023. (Joe Cavaretta/South Florida Sun Sentinel)

Hoping for the best

Edgewood, a Fort Lauderdale neighborhood near the airport that experienced extreme flooding during last year’s April 12 storm, is getting hit again this week.

Trantalis says flooding at the Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport might be partly to blame.

Said Trantalis: “The airport drains into Osceola Creek and when the creek can’t absorb all the water, guess where it goes? It goes into Edgewood. We need to have a serious discussion with the county about installing pumps at the airport to pump all that water out into the ocean.”

Kitty McGowan, president of the Edgewood Civic Association, says she and her neighbors are hoping for the best.

“At this moment, it’s not as bad as it was last year,” McGowan said. “But now they’re expecting another 10 inches and it’s predicted to continue raining through the weekend. Round 2 is what we’re all bracing for. We still have standing water in the streets. It’s a mess.”

McGowan’s house remained dry on Thursday but her neighbors weren’t so lucky.

“Behind me there is water in people’s houses,” she said. “And to the west of 15th Avenue, a lot of those have water in them as of Wednesday afternoon.”

J.P. Pasqual makes his way through the flooded streets of Green Acres Village in Hallandale Beach on Thursday. (Mike Stocker/South Florida Sun Sentinel)
J.P. Pasqual makes his way through the flooded streets of Green Acres Village in Hallandale Beach on Thursday. (Mike Stocker/South Florida Sun Sentinel)

Anxious and waiting

In Dania Beach, Tobin Silver couldn’t help being anxious about the rain.

His home has flooded twice before and he happens to be in the middle of replacing his roof.

“I was a little nervous, but the roof held up,” Silver said.

Silver said he wasn’t expecting another deluge so soon after the one that swept through more than a year ago.

“I was told that last storm (in April 2023) was a one-in-a-1,000-year storm,” he said. “I wasn’t expecting something of this magnitude. Never dreamed we’d have another one so soon.”

Like Fort Lauderdale, officials in Hollywood, Dania Beach and Hallandale Beach don’t have numbers on how many homes have been damaged by floodwater.

Hollywood Mayor Josh Levy said he thinks some homes already have flood damage.

“As I drove through the most affected areas of our city this morning to survey conditions, I saw waterline markings that indicated water entered the lower elevated garages of some houses,” he said Thursday. “Some homes may have had water enter through doorways as well.”

Flooded cars, shown Thursday, were abandoned by their owners in the middle of a street in east Hollywood during torrential rains. (Mike Stocker/South Florida Sun Sentinel)
Flooded cars, shown Thursday, were abandoned by their owners in the middle of a street in east Hollywood during torrential rains. (Mike Stocker/South Florida Sun Sentinel)

‘What a crazy, crazy storm’

To help lower water levels, Hollywood has deployed pumps and vacuum trucks. In addition, crews have been sent out to clear storm drains to help the rain drain as quickly as possible.

In Hallandale Beach, Mayor Joy Cooper was busy making calls and TV appearances, encouraging people to stay home and shelter in place.

“What a crazy, crazy storm,” she said. “This is insane. We had over 20 inches of rain and we are expecting another 10 inches.”

Some homes have flood damage, but Cooper could not say how many.

“We can’t do rapid assessments yet because we are still under an emergency,” she said. “We are supposed to stay home. We are still in the throngs of this storm. Life is more important than material items. People need to realize, stay at home. This is just like a hurricane.”

Susannah Bryan can be reached at sbryan@sunsentinel.com. Follow me on X @Susannah_Bryan

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