Naples Mayor, Teresa Heitmann, says the last 48 hours have been very stressful for her community with many residents still without power and the city in devastation.
“[The hurricane] was fierce…fierce and fast. And it just came rushing in. We all knew that there would be a storm surge at high tide, but no one predicted the fierceness of the water and the flow,” Mayor Heitmann told Fox News Digital.
Hurricane Ian came with 150 mph maximum sustained winds at landfall. The center of the storm was located about 80 miles north of Naples.
City crews were out starting at 5 a.m. Thursday to begin assessing the damage caused by Hurricane Ian, which was later downgraded to a tropical storm before being upgraded to a Category 1 storm as it pushed out into the Atlantic.
“They’ve been sitting in our facilities and our planning department overnight waiting to be deployed to do exactly what they had to do. And that [is to] make magic happen and clean up the mess that was left behind from an incredible, devastating storm,” she said.
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In Naples, stormwater has mostly drained leaving debris, but some of the areas that are still low-lying, still face high water.
Hurricane Ian storm surge in Naples was as high as 6 feet. The previous record was 4.25 feet was set in 2017 during Hurricane Irma.
“We had about 6.7 million [in damage] last hurricane. Unfortunately, we haven’t assessed it yet but it’s over 20 million. And we’re not even sure the number of vehicles that we have lost. It was just sitting around the table trying to estimate where we might be,” shared Mayor Heitmann.
In a viral video the Naples Fire Department shared fire trucks submerged in floodwater. The fire chief said when the station became flooded, a vehicle started smoking and crews had to push it outside. The station has since been drained.
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City Hall, where the mayor has been hunkered down working, sits right next to the fire station. She says she has been in close contact with the department.
“We had about, I think, seven stranded residents and rescue that spent the night in Station One. They were out all night long with calls of fires or fire alarms, and they’ve been very busy,” said Heitman.
Nicole Chesser, Chief of Staff of the Greater Naples Fire Rescue District, says they have power and generator backups for all fire stations.
“We have some areas that are still standing water, so we are concentrating on rescue efforts right now…that is the priority,” she shared.
Luckily, none of the first responders have faced any injuries.
“I know we had a few of our members had severe damage to their homes, but everybody is accounted for and safe,” said Chesser.
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Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.) and Congressman Byron Donalds (R-Fla.) have reached out to Heitmann to assure Naples gets the help and support needed.