Severe flooding from a disorganized tropical depression left many Key Biscayne roads impassable Saturday morning, with water as deep as three feet in some locations. As many as 15 motorists were stranded, officials said. They urged residents to stay indoors as they braced for high tide later in the day.
“Even fire trucks are having trouble,” said Village Manager Steve Williamson. He was out observing conditions first-hand while workers responded to a stalled car on West Heather Drive.
Fire Chief Eric Lang said his department responded to several incidents of flooded cars, including a couple of cases where officers helped to get children out of stuck vehicles. None of the incidents were life threatening, he said.
Many stores were closed or opened late.
Rainfall totals over the past 24 hours were as high as 9.5 inches in Coconut Grove, according to the National Weather Service. Another nearby rain gauge recorded 11 inches.
Village officials had been expecting flooding given the rainfall predictions and the limits of the island’s antiquated drainage system. Officials are planning up to $250 million in public works spending over a 10 year period to cope with sea level rise, with much of that spending expected to build a network of pressurized drainage lines and pumping stations.
The Village had worked to clear debris from storm drains, but the flood waters quickly lifted debris from lawns and streets and promptly left it scattered on roadways.
Though a big rainmaker, the system never organized enough to meet the definition of a tropical cyclone.
“It’s still kind of messy, still a depression. It’s a really lopsided thing,” said meteorologist Brian McNoldy at the University of Miami’s Rosenstiel school. He said rainfall totals were in line with predictions and said rain would taper off in Key Biscayne, eventually ending in the mid afternoon.
Some residents tried to strike a lighter tone despite the gloomy-looking skies, riding paddle boards or even inflatable pool toys on the flooded streets. But officials urged residents to not make contact with flood waters, which pick up many contaminants and can pose a health hazard.
Tony Winton is the editor-in-chief of the Key Biscayne Independent and president of Miami Fourth Estate, Inc. He worked previously at The Associated Press for three decades winning multiple Edward R. Murrow awards. He was president of the News Media Guild, a journalism union, for 10 years. Born in Chicago, he is a graduate of Columbia University. His interests are photography and technology, sailing, cooking, and science fiction.