Hurricane season's opening salvo a monster rainmaker in Miami

Hurricane season's opening salvo a monster rainmaker in Miami
AccuWeather / Bill Wadell
·5 min read

What would later become Tropical Storm Alex moved across Florida, Cuba, and the Bahamas Friday into Saturday, turning streets into rivers, submerging and stranding vehicles, cancelling flights into and out of South Florida, and killing at least two people in Cuba after more than 10 inches of rain fell in some areas.

Though the storm managed to develop tropical-storm-force sustained winds, it never organized enough to earn it the name Alex by the time it moved over Florida. Instead, the Atlantic hurricane season's opening salvo became a named storm over the open waters of the Atlantic, setting it on a path for Bermuda early this week.

With hurricane season officially starting earlier in the week, there was great interest in the storm's development not only among meteorologists but the general public at large. As the tropical rainstorm began forming near the Yucatan Peninsula, it crawled along with a forward speed of just 5 miles per hour at one point.

As it drew closer to the United States, the storm picked up forward speed, moving at 18 mph and packing 40-mph sustained winds early Saturday morning, but wind shear over the Gulf of Mexico was a prohibitive factor in its development. However, the gusty winds and flooding rain arrived just the same.

In Cuba's capital, Havana, authorities blamed at least two fatalities on the drenching storm, according to a report from BBC. Heavy, nonstop rain brought devastating floods to the country. More than 2,000 people were evacuated and about 50,000 people in and around Havana were without electricity on Saturday. The storm consisted of energy left over from Hurricane Agatha, which had previously taken its toll on Cuba.

To the north in Florida, roadways in downtown Miami were inundated Friday night into early Saturday morning. AccuWeather National Reporter Bill Wadell reported many people climbed through sunroofs to escape from their cars as the water continued to pour down Friday night. In some areas, Wadell reported, the water was waist deep.

Miami and immediate surrounding areas bore the brunt of the rainfall, with amounts over 10 inches across the city. Hollywood, Florida, a coastal suburb just north of Miami, picked up the highest confirmed rainfall total of the storm at 14.85 inches.

"We saw drivers trying to get through, some people in waist-deep water," said Wadell. "Fire and rescue crews were begging people to stay off the roads while they were out with high water rescue vehicles helping stranded drivers."

Rescue crews could be seen driving through flooded roadways with lights on in a video shared by Miami's fire-rescue department.

Mario Robleto, a Miami resident who was working a late-night shift, came out to find his car submerged.

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"I was seeing all these cars floating on the water. I came to mine and I see the whole water inside my car," Robleto told Wadell. "I didn't turn it on because I know it's not going to work and the bumper was ripped. I don't know if it was another car or the water. I'm still here waiting for a crane."

Drone video showed cars littered along Miami's flooded Southwest First Avenue Saturday morning. On top of drainage pumps and systems, city crews were out clearing storm drains that were covered with leaves, debris and trash in an effort to remove as much water as possible. As crews were able to clear clogged storm drains, the floodwaters quickly began to recede, Wadell reported.

Tow truck drivers spent much of the early part of the day hauling waterlogged cars off Miami streets. As the rain wound down Saturday afternoon, officials asked people to stay home to give crews plenty of room to work and clean up.

Rainfall totals across Florida entered double digits on Saturday morning. In Biscayne Park, which is north of downtown Miami, 11.61 inches of rain had been recorded by early Saturday afternoon since the rain started more than 72 hours earlier. Key Largo, the first island of the Florida Keys, measured 11 inches of rain and Miami International Airport recorded 11.05 inches of rain.

About 130 miles to the west of Miami in Naples, on Florida's Gulf Coast, as the outer rain bands start to move away from the town, many roads are still flooded. AccuWeather National Reporter Kim Leoffler said with the amount of rain that fell there, the storm drains on the roadways were overwhelmed.

"There is a drain here trying to pump out as much water as it can," said Leoffler. "But the amount of rainfall we have seen here in such a short amount of time, the water has just piled up."

Naples Mayor Teresa Heitmann told Leoffler that crews were out before the storm clearing drains and were still clearing drains to prevent further flooding into Saturday.

Young boys paddle an inflatable kayak on a flooded Miami street, Saturday, June 4, 2022. A tropical storm warning was in effect along portions of coastal Florida and the northwestern Bahamas. Several Miami streets were flooded and authorities were towing abandoned vehicles (AP Photo / Marta Lavandier)

As the storm continued to track northeastward across Florida, it wreaked havoc at South Florida airports, leading to the cancellation of close to 200 flights into and out of the region and delays for dozens more incoming and outgoing flights.

At Miami International Airport, just over 11 inches of rain had fallen and at Fort Lauderdale International Airport, 9.65 inches of rain had been measured on Saturday morning.

By late afternoon on Saturday, the bulk of the precipitation had moved well off Florida's Atlantic Coast. The storm, which developed in part from leftover energy from the east Pacific basin's historic Hurricane Agatha a week earlier, then strengthened as it sped away from the mainland U.S., becoming the first named storm of the season for the Atlantic basin as it headed toward Bermuda.

Reporting by Bill Wadell.

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