As much as 7 inches of rain swamped the Lower Keys Thursday as bands of thunderstorms marched eastward, giving residents an early dose of hurricane season.
All the usual low-lying areas in Key West quickly flooded by mid-morning, including Lower Duval Street, the intersection at White and Eaton streets, North Roosevelt Boulevard and Eisenhower Drive and many New Town side roads.
Torrential rain began falling at 10:30 a.m. and didn't let up until Thursday evening, with high tide occurring at 4:19 p.m., which further stymied rush-hour motorists, not to mention the bicyclists and pedestrians who tried to use the path on North Roosevelt Boulevard after high winds blew sections of the fencing down.
Key West bus service was suspended until 3 p.m. and the Bahama Village Redevelopment Advisory Committee evening meeting was canceled due to the flooding.
There were also reports of hail on the Boca Chica Bridge.
The Coast Guard retrieved an adrift 23-foot center console boat that was floating into the Disney Magic cruise ship, docked at the Outer Mole Pier, said Coast Guard Sector Key West spokesman Ensign Peter Bermont.
There were also reports of a vessel dragging anchor, but there were no injuries reported.
Ideal thunderstorm conditions over the lower Gulf of Mexico the past few days created a system that sat over the Lower Keys Thursday, but the larger rain system was moving east and expected to blow out of the Keys by today, said National Weather Service meteorologist Sean Daida.
About 3 to 5 inches of rain fell over the Lower Keys between 10:30 a.m. and 2:30 p.m., with a 5-inch total expected, while other areas saw as much as 7 inches, Daida said. And as usual, fast-moving motorists driving through large puddles created headaches for low-lying businesses.
Among them was Abaco Gold, 418 Front St. The jewelry store's owner, Angela Williamson, was aggravated that the city didn't respond faster to block motorists. Waves from passing cars flooded the store early and throughout the day.
"This part of Front Street floods just as badly as Duval (Street)," Williamson said. "I had to park my truck in the street to block traffic. I haven't seen it like this since (Hurricanes) Katrina and Wilma."