As another Atlantic hurricane season is underway, some Miami residents are raising concerns about the urban flooding that could come with it.
The climate phenomenon El Niño, which occurs when water temperatures are above the historical average across central and eastern parts of the Pacific Ocean centered around the equator, is officially underway. Despite occurring thousands of miles away from the Atlantic, the pattern influences global weather.
For South Florida, the El Niño pattern is expected to disrupt tropical development in the Atlantic at times during hurricane season, as westerly winds will dip farther south into the tropics. That can cause vertical wind shear – or changing winds with altitude – and thunderstorm growth to become tilted.
“That tilt caused by the shear disrupts the possibility of tropical development,” explained AccuWeather Lead Hurricane Expert Dan Kottlowski.
Even though El Niño can create more hostile conditions for the development of named tropical storms in the Atlantic at times, it won’t entirely eliminate threats from the tropics, including from unnamed storms. AccuWeather National Reporter Bill Wadell said locals in the Miami area know that even slow-moving thunderstorms can cause urban flooding issues in the city.
The potential for destruction from unnamed storms was apparent in June 2022 when a tropical rainstorm brought chaos to Miami and the streets of Brickell – the city’s financial center. Roadways became flooded, leading to many people climbing through sunroofs to escape their cars as water poured across the city. Over 10 inches was reported in the city, with nearby Hollywood, Florida, reporting nearly 15 inches of rain.
That rainstorm eventually became Tropical Storm Alex after it moved away from Florida.
In the year since the flooding impacted the city, some residents are concerned that not enough has changed to prevent a repeat event this year.
“I don’t think there’s really been any improvement, to be honest. These roads kind of turn into almost rivers,” Miami Resident Dylan Orrell told Wadell.
In order to prevent a repeat event, the City of Miami began a project to improve drainage systems. City leaders reported millions of dollars have already been invested in installing more pumps and upgrading drainage infrastructure. The South Florida master plan calls for investments of close to $4 billion over the next four decades to prevent flooding from more significant storms and the threat of rising sea levels.
Some Miami residents have already noticed improvements to the city’s drainage.
“Two or three years ago was terrible. Now, it’s getting better. I can see the city working in all the streets,” said Miami resident Wilson Bacateque.
In 2022, the City of Miami achieved an improved Community Rating System rating from the National Flood Insurance Program – resulting in up to a 20 percent discount on flood insurance premiums for city property owners and renters, according to the city government. The achievement was accomplished in part by the flooding project. The city’s flood plan management efforts include improving flood risk mapping, development standards, and drainage system maintenance.
“The City continues to encourage property owners to know their risk for flooding and to contact their insurance agent to purchase flood insurance and understand what is covered,” The City of Miami advised in its plan.
Produced in association with AccuWeather
Edited by Alberto Arellano and Joseph Hammond