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Sun Times Feature Story

Sun Times Issue 06.20.2019Sun Times Issue 02.07.19

Flooding Nightmare

South Florida Is Horrible When It Comes To Dealing With Heavy Rain

By Larry Blustein
This Friday signals the official start of summer, but south Floridians have been living with the heat, humidity and rain for the past three weeks.

By now, you know we really don’t have seasons - and while it may be a shock to some who just arrived - this is the way it has always been.

Our winters are five days, we have no fall and our spring is as hot as summer - with less humidity but still 80 degree temperatures. But whether your lawn needs watering or not, the rains become too intense and alter life.

With heavy rains falling this past week - we are getting a break from the heat and humidity - but unfortunately not from the street flooding.

Lets be honest. Our streets, for the most part, are terrible. The drainage is not good and the amount of cars getting stuck is fine for towing companies but nobody else.

“Okay, so this may not be the midwest or other areas that are prone to flooding,” said Kathy Rojas of Hallandale Beach. “But it gets to the point when the rain falls for a day or so, that there are some areas that you just cannot get to, and that’s a problem.”

Because every community tries to combat street flooding with better drainage, being at sea level often comes with a high price. If you live on the beach, you already understand the problems that you are buying into.

“Having lived on the beach for 12 years and going through a few storms, it gets old quickly driving on the streets,” Allen Browne of Sunny Isles Beach pointed out. “Living on the 12th floor, we are fine, but as soon as you come out of your building, you have to start navigating. It’s a chore to walk down the street to the grocery store as well.”

Forget this tradeoff business about cold weather and us being in a warm climate. That no longer holds water, so to speak, when flooding becomes a major obstacle.

When the flooding is really bad in south Florida, water doesn’t just fill the streets outside Candy Moreno’s home in western Hollywood. It bubbles up through a shower drain.

Living in an area that has been known for flooding - even after the City has eased the residents’ concerns with improved drainage, Moreno realizes that all it takes to fill the streets to knee-high depth on those days is a full moon. The flood comes up through drains, making it impossible to navigate without encountering the water, which is mixed with sewage and whatever else it picked up along the way.

“It’s not fun - and we are not alone,” Moreno pointed out. “Our friends live right down the road in Pembroke Pines, and beyond the damage to homes, roads, or other infrastructure, the flooding has threatened their drinking water and plant life.

It doesn’t take a hurricane, or even a tropical storm, to leave a neighborhood submerged in water for days. All it takes is a summer storm, or a seasonal king tide. Two summers ago, heavy rains flooded inland in Broward County, closing a popular mall for three days.

There are several reasons why water keeps pooling in the southern tip of Florida. Sea levels are rising, south Florida was built on a marsh, and rapid development keeps shrinking the wetlands that can absorb and drain excessive rainwater. So there are a few places for water to go when Miami and Fort Lauderdale are deluged.

“Because south Florida’s economy — and tax revenue — is so reliant on real estate development, politicians have done little to put the brakes on urban sprawl,” Browne pointed out.

Miami-Dade’s metro area is one of the densest populated areas in the country, and the vast majority of people live along the coast. It’s the most desirable, expensive real estate markets here that’s also the most at risk of flooding and hurricane damage. Everyone wants a condo on the beach, and property taxes are a major source of revenue for local governments. But local leaders often find their hands tied when it comes to these issues.

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