South Florida awoke Thursday to downed trees, roads closed due to debris and flooding, homes taking on water and massive puddles everywhere. Tens of thousands of homes were without power.
The cause? A no-name storm, one that swept the region over two days and dumped up to 14 inches of rain in some spots, with gusts as high as 75 mph in Miami Beach and Dania Beach. The damage was enough to rival some tropical storms that have swept the region in recent years, according to the National Hurricane Center. And it even showed a broad area of circulation on radar as it rolled past South Florida early Thursday morning.
But it wasn’t one.
Senior hurricane specialist Robbie Berg said that although the center tagged the storm as a low-worth watching, it did not officially meet the definition of a tropical depression or tropical storm. That’s because this system had a ridge of cool air, also known as a frontal boundary, attached to it that left parts of Miami in the 60s overnight after the rain swept through.
“One of the hallmarks of a tropical system is that it cannot have frontal boundaries attached to it,” he said. “If it does, it’s extratropical.”
Named or not, last night’s storm clearly was a whopper for some parts of South Florida. Broward County closed its schools for the day, and the Henry E. Kinney tunnel in Fort Lauderdale was closed. The runways at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport were swamped again, the second time this year. It was a mess but did nowhere near the damage of the “rain bomb” that swamped Fort Lauderdale with nearly 26 inches in a 12-hour period in April.
Social media accounts of downed trees on homes and cars, along with flooded homes, continued to pile up Thursday morning.
The Miami office of the National Weather Service reported a “palm tree split down the middle” in Oakland Park. And as of 10 a.m., nearly 90,000 customers were without power in Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach, according to Poweroutage.us.
Exactly how much rain fell is still in question, but the South Florida Water Management District reported two-day rain totals as high as 12 to 14 inches in southeast and east-central Broward. And CoCoRahs, a volunteer network of rain gauges, reported two-day totals as high as 13.31 inches in Lauderdale-by-the-Sea.
South Florida’s flood control systems are typically designed to handle about 6 inches a day. Most areas escape serious flooding, though there was still plenty of standing water in low-lying areas that frequently flood.
Flooding in some spots was worsened by higher-than-average tides, known as king tides, that peaked late Wednesday and midmorning Thursday, giving the water little space to drain away.
“In terms of combined wind and rain impacts in Biscayne Park, this no-name storm is a close second behind Irma (2017) since I moved here in early 2012. Power is off and on, internet is out, water main breaks, etc. This was a very significant event,” Brian McNoldy, a senior research associate at the University of Miami Rosenstiel School of Marine, Atmospheric, and Earth Science posted on X, formerly Twitter.
Berg, with the hurricane center, said that whether or not they named this storm, residents should pay attention to the watches and warnings issued by the local weather service. Several flash flood warnings were issued Wednesday night that blanketed nearly all of Miami-Dade and eastern Broward County.
“If it has a name or not, it doesn’t really matter. What we really want people to listen to is the local watches and warnings,” he said. “They’re put out for a reason.”