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Flooding Kills Two in South Florida

Written by Christina Ward, Staff Writer, with news reports

Much of south Florida remained flooded Thursday after more than 18 inches rain fell on the region earlier this week. Two deaths were reported from the flooding, and thousands of families were forced from their homes in Miami-Dade, Broward and Monroe Counties.

A man uses his cell phone on a dry patch near Hallandale Beach, Florida.
Photo by J. Albert Diaz of the Miami Herald.
Gov. Jeb Bush toured the flooded areas on Wednesday. He declared a state of emergency for South Florida and submitted a letter to President Clinton asking for federal aid. Many residents and businesses were still mopping up from Tropical Storm Gordon, which soaked south Florida late last month, when this week's floods hit.

The rain began Monday night (Oct. 2), and fell all day on Tuesday, finally tapering off on Wednesday morning. The storm that brought the deluge was not strong enough to be named — it was labeled a subtropical depression by the National Hurricane Center — but its resulting floods were comparable to those of Hurricane Irene, which brought 18 inches of rain in October 1999.

Red Cross volunteer Mary Benson registers a couple at a shelter for flood victims.
Photo by Randy Bazemore of the Miami Herald.
A 36-year-old worker was killed on Wednesday morning when he fell about 35 feet from a roof he was draining in Miami Beach, a police spokesperson told the media. And a 41-year-old worker at Miami International Airport died when he drove a vehicle carrying luggage into an overflowing canal.

According to Miami-Dade County officials, an aerial tour of the region showed that about 93,000 homes with about 214,000 residents are surrounded by water. The American Red Cross opened two shelters in Miami-Dade County — the county with the worst flooding — and one in Broward County. A total of about 145 people have stayed at the shelters since they opened.

Local rescue teams helped residents who were stuck in flooded neighborhoods.
Photo by Chuck Fadely of the Miami Herald.
Health officials issued warnings to residents to avoid contact with the standing floodwaters, which could be contaminated from overflowing sewers and septic tanks. As of mid-day Thursday, there were still more than 27,000 Miami-Dade homes and businesses without power. Florida Power and Light spokesman Bill Swank told the Miami Herald that 24,000 of those homes and businesses are connected to underground utility suppliers.

"Our crews can't move in until the waters recede and until they can safely use their equipment," Swank said. Also impeding the progress of utility repair workers are many impassable roads, blocked by abandoned cars or simply high waters.

All schools in the flooded region were closed on Tuesday. Most reopened on Wednesday, except 15 schools that were too flooded or remained without power.

Emergency managers said it was too soon to determine the amount of outside aid that the region might need. Jim Loftus, a spokesman for Florida's emergency management team, said it would probably be several days before the floodwaters are low enough to do a full assessment. "Until the water goes down, we never know what we have," Loftus told Reuters.


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