Fort Lauderdale airport reopened Friday morning, two days after an unprecedented deluge left planes and travelers stranded, as residents of the city’s hardest-hit neighborhoods began a slow process of cleaning up the mess they left behind.
Officials at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport completed final inspections after sunrise Friday and resumed operations at 9 a.m.
In a tweet Friday morning, Airport officials advised travelers To check with their airlines for updated flight schedules before going to the airport.
The airport was closed on Wednesday evening after a storm dumped more than 60 centimeters of rain.
“Nature has been unkind to us,” Broward County Sheriff Lamar Fisher said during a news conference Thursday afternoon at the airport.
While it started raining Monday in South Florida, a lot of water fell Wednesday, and the Fort Lauderdale area saw record amounts of rain in a matter of hours, ranging from 15 inches (38 cm) to 26 inches (66 cm).
In the Edgewood neighborhood of Fort Lauderdale on Friday morning, the water level had receded about a foot from Thursday, but was still up to 2 feet (0.6 meters) high in some areas as residents tried to clean up.
Newly married Tatiana Rodriguez pointed to the spot a foot above the ground where the water rose inside the one-room rental she shared with her husband, Joseph. The yard they share with the other boarders and use to enter their home has remained underwater, and trash from around the neighborhood has collected there.
Tatiana, a hotel worker from Colombia, and her husband, a kitchen assistant in a restaurant from New York, have no electricity to run an air conditioner, a small microwave, or a mini-fridge.
The bridal tiara from their wedding last month still hangs on the headboard. When water began flowing into their house on Wednesday night, they went out and found blocks of bricks about feet high, which they used to support the bed.
“The only thing we think is ‘save the bed’ because if we don’t have the bed we will have to leave,” said Tatiana Rodriguez, as she cleared the rubble. “We are lucky that we can survive.”
Nearby, deck yacht Sawyer Canal was gliding across the water with two of his South African guests, Fran Human and Dominic Linda.
Kanall, who moved to Edgewood last week, said he was lucky his house is on a small hill, which prevents water from seeping in. But the trio was surrounded by floods on all sides.
“I can’t complain – all my things are dry,” said Kanal. “But everything around us is damp.”
“It’s not the vacation we were expecting,” the human said.
Hayden Wooster spent two days driving around the streets of Edgewood in his pickup truck, helping people get to and from their homes. He said he was able to help two people with medical equipment leave their home after firefighters in a small boat became unable to do so, and also helped a family with two disabled daughters evacuate.
“I grabbed them, grabbed their wheelchairs and took them to the hotel,” said Wooster, the attorney.
Airlines had to cancel more than 650 flights at Fort Lauderdale Airport on Thursday, according to FlightAware.com.
A Southwest spokesperson said it had canceled about 50 departures as of Friday morning. She said the airline allows customers to rebook flights to and from Miami and Palm Beach at no additional charge.
A spokesperson said Frontier Airlines has moved two flights from Fort Lauderdale to Miami but canceled about 15 other round-trips. Allegiant Air also canceled some flights and rerouted others to the Tampa, Orlando and Punta Gorda areas.
On the Fort Lauderdale beach, for three days Tortuga Music Festival It kicks off on Friday afternoons, headlined by Eric Church, Kenny Chesney, Jake Owen, and Shania Twain. The “rain or shine” event left many ticket holders out of luck once the airport closed.
One of them is Amber Borkowski of Baltimore, Maryland, who bought tickets to the festival six months ago and was planning to fly to Fort Lauderdale on Thursday to celebrate her friend’s birthday.
On Wednesday night, her friend was caught in a flash flood while driving home from work in Fort Lauderdale.
“I started reaching out to the festival and asking about the first plan Thursday morning after I saw all the damage in the city,” Borkowski said. Then Southwest canceled its Thursday night flight from Baltimore to Fort Lauderdale, and festival officials told it there were no refunds available.
“All the other airports I looked at, I would spend more money to fly to, but I wouldn’t be able to get a rental car to get to Fort Lauderdale,” she said. So she canceled her trip.
While she said she understands that some things, such as weather events, are beyond the festival organizer’s control, “losing money is also hard to swallow.”
Broward County Public Schools, the nation’s sixth-largest school district with more than 256,000 students, canceled classes Thursday and Friday after halls and classrooms at some schools were flooded.
Sean Bhatti, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Miami, said the area had seen an “unprecedented amount” of rain. The weather service was still confirming totals, but some gauges showed up to 25 inches (63.5 cm) of rain.
“For context, within six hours, the amount that went down is a probability of one in 1,000 within a given year,” Bhatti said. “So it’s a very historic event.”
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