‘Historic’ Rains Force Fort Lauderdale Airport To Close


Torrential rains flooded Broward County on Wednesday, inundating roads, shutting schools and closing South Florida’s second-busiest airport.

Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport halted landings and takeoffs Wednesday afternoon. The airport is expected to remain closed until 5 a.m. Friday, officials tweeted. The airport earlier had suggested it might open at noon Thursday.

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“The airport’s roadways are still closed and impacted by flooding,” the airport said in a statement. “While stalled vehicles are being removed from the upper/lower levels, the main artery exit remains flooded and congested with slow-moving traffic.”

Wednesday’s storms brought 16 to 20 inches of rain to parts of Broward County, the National Weather Service reported. In a typical year, Fort Lauderdale averages 3.02 inches of rain during the entire month of April, according to The Washington Post — meaning the airport received at least five times that in just one day. 

“After a historic day of rainfall across portions of South Florida that many of us will not soon forget, another potential wet day is ahead for today,” the National Weather Service’s Miami office wrote in its Thursday morning forecast. “The culprit remains a surface and upper-level low over the northern Gulf.”

As of Thursday morning, dozens of flights to and from Fort Lauderdale had been canceled Wednesday and Thursday, according to the trip-tracking site FlightAware.

Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport served 31.7 million passengers in 2022, trailing Miami International Airport’s 37.3 million. Palm Beach International Airport reported 6.6 million passengers last year. The airports in Miami and Palm Beach County remained open.

Since the pandemic, South Florida has experienced an influx of new residents and businesses. Wednesday’s heavy rains — nearly two months before the start of hurricane season — brought a reminder that the region’s weather isn’t always pleasantly sunny.

While this bout of flooding came from rainfall rather than storm surge, both the Fort Lauderdale and Miami airports are among the world’s largest airports that are less than 3 meters (9 feet) above sea level, according to an analysis by Nikkei Asia, which can begin to affect the infrastructure from individual flood events, long before — or if — the sea rises to that level.

Jeff Ostrowski can be reached at jostrowski@commercialobserver.com.