Floodwater transforms Fort Lauderdale airport runway into river

'Venice of America' nickname rings true as flooding cripples travel
Jet planes sit on flooded runway at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport, April 13, 2023
Posted at 1:39 PM, Apr 13, 2023
and last updated 2023-04-13 20:32:11-04

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — Fort Lauderdale is often referred to as the "Venice of America."

That certainly seemed to be the case Thursday, one day after a heavy downpour of rain flooded the streets in the city and surrounding Broward County and transformed the airport's runway into a river.

Fort Lauderdale issued a state of emergency Thursday morning as floodwater filled the city's throughways, stranding drivers and making roadways unnavigable.

Tow truck driver Keith Hickman told The Associated Press that he saw abandoned cars "floating like boats" in the streets of Fort Lauderdale.

"There were hundreds of cars up and down here," he said. "It was unbelievable. I have never seen cars bumper-boating each other and floating. And a truck would come by and the wake would push the cars into the other cars and they were just floating. I've never seen anything like it."

Residents walk through flooded street in Fort Lauderdale neighborhood on April 13, 2023
Residents walk along a flooded street in their neighborhood, April 13, 2023, in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

Amanda Valentine was driving when she received a warning about flash flooding on her phone.

"The water started rising, I thought I was going to drown," Valentine told the AP, adding that she was terrified when she couldn't open her car door or roll the windows down. "Nothing was working. All the lights were going on in my car, so nothing was operating. And I thought, 'I'm going to drown.' I called my parents like, 'I'm going to die. Like, I'm going to drown. There's no way for me to get out of this car.' And they couldn't help me. I called 911 and they told me they couldn't help me."

Broward County schools were forced to close as more than 25 inches of rain was recorded in Fort Lauderdale as of Thursday morning.

The standing floodwater also prompted the closure of Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport until at least 9 a.m. Friday.

Truck drives through flooded runway at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport, April 13, 2023
A truck drives on the flooded runway at Fort Lauderdale- Hollywood International Airport, Thursday, April 13, 2023, in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

Many travelers who had flights in and out of Fort Lauderdale were making alternative arrangements at South Florida's other major airports in Miami and West Palm Beach.

Fort Lauderdale City Hall remained closed Thursday with ground-floor flooding and no power.

The Henry E. Kinney Tunnel carrying U.S. Highway 1 underneath the New River and Las Olas Boulevard in downtown Fort Lauderdale was also closed, along with some ramps to Interstate 95.