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    'A wall of water' is falling on Florida. Hurricane forecasters are watching.

    By Doyle Rice, USA TODAY,


    Although not officially a tropical storm, a weather system continued to drench much of Florida Wednesday with heavy rain and thunderstorms, causing traffic havoc on the roads. Due to the heavy rainfall, a flash flood emergency has been posted for parts of south Florida, meaning life-threatening flooding is now ongoing, the National Weather Service in Miami said Wednesday afternoon.

    I-95 was shut down in the southbound direction in Dania Beach, Florida, due to flooding. Fort Lauderdale Mayor Dean Tantralis said Wednesday afternoon he is declaring a state of emergency and advised residents to use caution when driving through the city.

    The National Weather Service in Miami had this succinct message: "SEEK HIGHER GROUND, GET OFF THE ROADS."

    Sammy Hadi, a weather service meteorologist in Miami, said rain amounts of 4 to 10 inches have fallen today with an additional 3 to 6 inches possible. That's on top of Tuesday's rainfall, Hadi said.

    Heavy rain to continue

    The foul weather is associated with a tropical disturbance over the state, one that the National Hurricane Center is giving a 20% chance of development into a depression or tropical storm over the next seven days.

    "Regardless of development, heavy rainfall is expected across portions of Florida during the next few days," the hurricane center said. In fact, by the time the storm winds down later in the week, some areas could see almost two feet of rain , according to AccuWeather.

    "This will be like a wall of water coming at southern and central Florida into Thursday," AccuWeather meteorologist Bernie Rayno said.

    A very rainy day

    Tuesday was a very rainy day across southern Florida, with widespread reports of 2-5 inches of rainfall, the National Weather Service in Miami said. Siesta Key near Sarasota picked up 11.49 inches of rain, according to meteorologist Jonathan Erdman.

    Sarasota received over half-a-foot of rain, a record for the day. Roads were flooded in many areas , including Sarasota and Miami, with drivers stranded and cars swamped.

    The system is expected to move northeast across Florida and then out into the Atlantic over the next few days, the hurricane center said.

    FLASH WARNING Band of storms bring 'life-threatening flooding' to South Florida, snarl I-95 traffic
    The tropics are starting to awaken. While one storm is drenching Florida (yellow x), forecasters are also keeping an eye on an area of disturbed weather in the western Gulf of Mexico. National Hurricane Center

    Separate system spins in the Gulf

    Forecasters from the hurricane center Wednesday were also keeping watch on a separate area of disturbed weather in the southwestern Gulf of Mexico, which could become a low-pressure area over the weekend. After that, "environmental conditions appear conducive for some slow development early next week while the system moves slowly westward or west-northwestward," the hurricane center said.

    The system has a 30% chance of becoming a tropical depression or storm.

    "Regardless of any organization into a tropical depression, this feature will pump a significant amount of moisture onshore over the central Gulf Coast region in the form of heavy rain from Sunday to Tuesday, which may expand westward to much of South Texas later next week," AccuWeather meteorologist Joseph Bauer said.
    Stalled vehicles sit in a flooded street on June 12, 2024, in Aventura, Florida. The state is being adversely impacted as tropical moisture passes through the area. Joe Raedle, Getty Images

    Flood watch issued in Florida

    The rain was forecast to create mainly localized areas of flash flooding across the state, with urban areas, roads, small streams, and low-lying areas the most vulnerable, the National Weather Service said.

    The weather service has placed much of South Florida under a flood watch , warning that multiple rounds of heavy rain could quickly lead to additional flooded roads and waterways above their flood table.

    In the Florida Keys, rainfall totals could reach 2 to 3 inches by Wednesday evening, the weather service said. In the same timeframe, 6-9 inches of rain is expected to fall across Southwest Florida and the Lake Okeechobee region, with 2-5 inches of rain forecast for Miami.

    Rain to ease drought, heat

    The rain will be beneficial at first, as "drought conditions have steadily increased across the peninsula throughout the spring months," said AccuWeather meteorologist Brandon Buckingham . The cloudy skies and wet weather will also end the record-challenging warmth that's been baking the Sunshine State in recent weeks, he said.

    Wild weather: Storms lash Florida, Texas; massive heat wave to ramp up Tuesday

    A slow start to the hurricane season — so far

    So far in 2024, no named tropical storm has formed in the Atlantic basin, which includes storms in the Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean Sea. This is the latest start to the hurricane season in the past 10 years, according to Rayno . In 2014, the first storm was Tropical Storm Arthur, which formed on July 1, 2014.

    The first storm this year will be named Alberto.

    Rayno said the lack of storms in June isn't unusual, as dry air and wind shear are combining to limit storm development in the Atlantic, which often happens this time of the year.

    Additionally, if no storms form over the next week, it'll mark only the third time since 1970 there have been no named storms in the Western Hemisphere through June 17, according to Philip Klotzbach , Colorado State University meteorologist specializing in Atlantic basin seasonal hurricane forecasts.

    An updated forecast

    Klotzbach's team issued an updated seasonal hurricane forecast Tuesday , which basically repeated the dire forecast made in April : An "extremely active Atlantic hurricane season" is likely, with as many as 23 named tropical storms and hurricanes possible.

    "We anticipate a well above-average probability for major hurricanes making landfall along the continental United States coastline and in the Caribbean," Colorado State University 's announcement said.

    A major hurricane is one that is a Category 3 or stronger, with maximum sustained winds of at least 111 mph.

    The Colorado State forecast jibes with many other seasonal hurricane forecasts , which call for a busy season due to unusually warm water in the Atlantic and the likelihood of a storm-boosting La Niña pattern forming in the Pacific Ocean.

    Contributing: Christopher Cann, USA TODAY; Cheryl McCloud, USA TODAY Network ; Dinah Voyles Pulver, USA TODAY; Kimberly Miller, Antonio Fins, Palm Beach Post

    This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: 'A wall of water' is falling on Florida. Hurricane forecasters are watching.

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