Florida soaked with epic rainstorms: Yep, it's climate change

Global warming and related phenomena causing historic downpours and flooding in the Sunshine State

By Matthew Rozsa

Staff Writer

Published June 14, 2024 4:39PM (EDT)

Flooded streets in Fort Myers, Florida, after 24 hours of continuous rain, June 13. (Lokman Vural Elibol/Anadolu via Getty Images)
Flooded streets in Fort Myers, Florida, after 24 hours of continuous rain, June 13. (Lokman Vural Elibol/Anadolu via Getty Images)

Days after being pummeled with eight inches of rainfall in only just hours — the kind of extreme downpour that supposedly occurs once every 500 years — South Florida continues to be deluged with historic storms and flooding.

The region of the state remains under a flood advisory on Friday after a series of storms dumped between eight and 20 inches of rain over large sections of Florida over the previous three days. Meteorologists expect another two to four inches of rain by Friday night, and some areas may get as much as 10 inches.

This extreme wet weather has left hundreds of people stranded in their homes, closed dozens of highways and delayed flights at the Miami and Fort Lauderdale airports. This storm system even yielded a tornado that tore through the community of Hobe Sound, north of Palm Beach, on Wednesday, uprooting or destroying at least 20 landmark ficus trees.

The tornado damage “looked like the beginning of a zombie movie,” according to Ted Rico, a tow truck driver who helped clear the streets of stalled vehicles. Rico told the Associated Press, “There’s cars littered everywhere, on top of sidewalks, in the median, in the middle of the street, no lights on. Just craziness, you know. Abandoned cars everywhere.”

According to researchers, climate change both intensifies extreme weather events like tropical storms and floods and makes them more frequent. The primary cause, in the words of University of Pennsylvania climatologist Michael E. Mann, is "business-as-usual fossil fuel burning." If that continues, Mann has said, "We could be looking at six feet of sea level rise by the end of the century, the displacement of nearly a billion people," with the possibility that this could happen "on an accelerated timeframe." 

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, a Republican often described as a climate skeptic, has worked to scrub references to the problem from official state documents in his state. Activists like Stevie O'Hanlon, communications director for the Sunrise Movement, argue that kind of denialism will ultimately backfire on the politicians who support it.

"We want to send a message to politicians like [Texas Gov.] Greg Abbott and Ron DeSantis, who are banning water breaks and the mere mention of climate change," said O'Hanlon. "If you continue to care more about pleasing your oil and gas donors than the lives of people in your state, you are going to be out of a job."

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