Heavy Rain Shuts Down South Florida Airport, Floods Gulfstream Racetrack

Dec 23, 2019

Stormy weather broke rainfall records Monday amid South Florida’s wintery dry season.

Heavy rain shut down Fort Lauderdale International Airport and delayed more than 100 flights. As the soggy mess spread across South Florida, high water closed the Hollywood marina and flooded stables and a track at Gulfstream Park, where morning training was called off.

By mid morning, a new record for rain was reached at the airport, measuring 7.15 inches, said Molly Merrifield, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service’s Miami office.

Unofficial tallies in Hallandale and Aventura topped a foot, she said.

The heavy rain was caused when a low pressure system that formed in the Gulf of Mexico rolled across the state, dragging cold and warm fronts packing rain and thunderstorms. As it reached the coast, easterly winds caused the system to slow.

“This is pretty unusual,” Merrifield said. “Technically, we’re in the dry season now. But the dry season doesn’t mean it never rains. It just means less frequently."

While official weather service tallies for Southeast Florida are measured at the Miami, Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach’s international airports, Merrifield said volunteer observers reported more than a foot of rain in Hallandale and Aventura.

Gauges for the South Florida Water Management District recorded 9.01 inches in northeast Miami-Dade County and between 5.3 and 4.23 inches along the coast, from southern to northern Broward County by 7 a.m. Monday.

At Gulfstream, track officials said 12.80 inches fell overnight, leaving the main track and some low-lying barns flooded. Aerial footage from WSVN showed stables flooded and a man wading through thigh-high water. On its Facebook page, the Gulfstream Horsemen Purchasing Association posted pictures from inside one of the flooded barns, where a horse stood in its stall in ankle-deep water.

Track officials said some horses were moved, but none were injured. They expect to re-open the main training track Tuesday morning. Racing is expected to resume, on schedule, on Thursday.

Looking ahead, Merrifield said the holiday week is looking cheerier, with just a 20 to 30 percent chance of rain. 

"It should be much quieter," she said. "It's going to be nothing like last night."