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'Like the Gulf of Mexico came in': Hurricane Ian flooded this historically Black Naples neighborhood

Omar Rodriguez Ortiz, Miami Herald on

Published in Weather News

NAPLES, Fla. — Piles of damaged furniture, damp mattresses and broken electronics sat Saturday in front of most houses on the east side of Naples’ only historically Black neighborhood.

Hurricane Ian’s storm surge pushed muddy water from the Gulf of Mexico into the Gordon River and the canals that surround almost the entire east side of River Park. When residents saw the water creeping in on Wednesday, they say, it was already too late.

“The water came in from both sides,” Willie Sirmons, 74, told the Miami Herald, “so we were trapped.”

In a neighborhood where residents were already wary of being priced out, efforts to pick up the pieces after Ian are colliding with fears about what the future holds.

Sirmons has been living with his wife in River Park for over a decade, but he has been in the neighborhood at least 20 years. Behind their house is one canal and another is behind their neighbors’ houses across the street.

It all happened in a matter of minutes, he said. First, their backyard got flooded, quickly followed by their deck next to the canal, and then water started coming inside the house through the cracks of the wooden floor.

 

“That’s when we knew it was time to go,” he said.

With the water up to their chest, they walked to their daughter’s house down the street with only the essentials: photo IDs and a cellphone wrapped in a plastic bag. Their daughter’s house is on slightly higher ground, so they were safe there.

“It looked like the Gulf of Mexico came in,” said Sirmons, who lives about a dozen blocks from the beach.

By Saturday afternoon, after the city had hauled thousands of pounds of debris, new mountains of trash started piling up as the clean-up progressed.

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