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South Florida airport reopens after storm brings unprecedented flooding

Fort Lauderdale recovers from historic flooding
Fort Lauderdale continues recovery from historic flooding 02:07

Fort Lauderdale's airport reopened Friday morning, two days after an unprecedented deluge left planes and travelers stranded, as residents in the city's hardest hit neighborhoods began the slow process of cleaning up the mess left behind.

Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport shut down Wednesday evening as a storm dumped more than 2 feet of rain. Airport officials completed final inspections after sunrise Friday and resumed operations at 9 a.m. By the afternoon, airport operations were slowly returning to normal, but the almost two-day closure was still affecting some passengers.

While it started raining on Monday in South Florida, much of the water fell Wednesday, and the Fort Lauderdale area saw record rainfall amounts in a matter of hours, ranging from 15 to 26 inches.

Flooding lingers at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport on April 13, 2023. Joe Cavaretta/South Florida Sun Sentinel/Tribune News Service via Getty Images

In Fort Lauderdale's Edgewood neighborhood on Friday morning, the water level had receded about a foot from Thursday but was still up to 2 feet deep in some spots as residents tried to clean up. There were no immediate reports of injuries or deaths.

Broward County Public Schools, the sixth-largest school district in the nation with more than 256,000 students, canceled classes Thursday and Friday after water inundated halls and classrooms in some schools.

Shawn Bhatti, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Miami, said the region received "an unprecedented amount" of rain. The weather service was still confirming totals, but some gauges showed up to 25 inches of rainfall.

"For context, within a six-hour period, the amount that fell is about a 1 in 1,000 chance of happening within a given year," Bhatti said. "So it's a very historical type of event."

Denis Mendez, 32, left, and Isain Lopez 33, walk down a flooded street in the Edgewood neighborhood on April 13, 2023, in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.   Matias J. Ocner/Miami Herald/Tribune News Service via Getty Images

Newlywed Tatiana Rodriguez pointed to the spot a foot above the floor where the water rose inside the one-room rental she shares with her husband, Joseph. The patio they share with other boarders and use to enter their home remained underwater.

Rodriguez, a hotel worker from Colombia, and her husband, a restaurant kitchen assistant from New York, have no electricity to power their air conditioning, small microwave or tiny refrigerator.

The bridal tiara from their marriage last month is still hanging on the headboard of their bed. When the water started gushing into their home Wednesday night, they went outside and found foot-high cinder blocks that they used to prop the bed up.

"The only thing we think about is, 'Save the bed,' because if we don't have the bed we will have to leave," Tatiana Rodriguez said as she swept debris. "We are lucky because we can stay."

Nearby, yacht deckhand Sawyer Canale trudged through the water with his two South African houseguests, Fran Human and Dominic Linda.

Canale, who moved to Edgewood last week, said he was lucky because his house sits on a tiny hill, keeping the water inches from seeping inside. But the trio was surrounded on all sides by flooding.

"I can't complain — all of my stuff is dry," Canale said. "But everything around us is wet."

"It is not the vacation we expected," Human deadpanned.

Hayden Wooster spent two days driving Edgewood's streets in his large pickup truck, helping people get to and from their homes. He said he was able to help two people with medical devices leave their home after firefighters in a small boat couldn't, and also helped a family with two disabled daughters to evacuate.

"Grabbed them, grabbed their wheelchairs and got them to the hotel," said Wooster, an attorney.

Airlines were forced to cancel more than 650 flights at the Fort Lauderdale airport on Thursday, according to

On Fort Lauderdale Beach, the three-day Tortuga Music Festival kicks off Friday afternoon, headlined by Eric Church, Kenny Chesney, Jake Owen and Shania Twain. The "rain or shine" event left many ticketholders out of luck once the airport closed.

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