South Florida flooded by tropical disturbance

Wednesday, October 4th 2000, 12:00 am

By: News On 6

MIAMI (AP) _ Residents of the metropolitan area were urged to stay home Wednesday because of flooding and blocked streets following a storm that poured more than a foot of rain on parts of South Florida.

Water rose so high near canals in Opa-locka that catfish were carried into some first-floor apartments.

Classes for all 360,000 students in the Miami-Dade public schools were canceled Wednesday, along with Catholic schools there and in some other counties, and Miami-Dade Mayor Alex Penelas told nonessential county employees to stay home. Thousands had lost electrical service.

``The bottom line is that these are not good conditions for the traveling public,'' Penelas said.

Water rushed inside the home of Virginia Pacheco when she opened her door in unincorporated west Miami-Dade.

``There are probably fish, snakes out there,'' she said. ``You could go fishing.''

A tornado touched down in Hialeah and tore the roof off a fire station while it was being used as a voting site for Tuesday's elections. No one was injured. Another was spotted near Miami's Metrozoo but no damage was reported.

Miami International Airport never officially closed, but numerous flights were canceled or rerouted, said airport spokesman Marc Henderson.

The storm developed over Cuba, then gathered strength and moisture as it moved across the Florida Straits on Tuesday.

All of Miami-Dade got at least 11 inches of rain and one reporting station got 15.3 inches in 36 hours, the National Weather Service said. Rainfall had mostly stopped in Dade County by Wednesday morning, with only scattered showers, but rain continued falling up the coast, where Broward County had gotten more than 8 inches.

In October 1999, Hurricane Irene dumped up to 18 inches of rain and caused millions of dollars in damage.

Some streets and highway exits remained nearly impassable during what would have been the Wednesday morning rush hour. Some traffic signals were out of order and hundreds of vehicles stalled by deep water littered the roads, some sitting in the traffic lanes.

The storm also knocked down tree limbs and signs, and damaged roofs.

``I was sitting in the bedroom with my children when all of a sudden the roof crashed in and water came pouring down,'' Claire Raymonvil said of her home in Fort Lauderdale. ``We just bought this house.''

More than 26,000 Miami-Dade customers were without power late Tuesday, said Florida Power and Light spokesman Tom Ziegler.

The Miami-Dade County Health Department warned residents that standing water could be contaminated by overflow from sewer systems and septic tanks, and people with private wells were advised to boil their drinking water.


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