City of Naples continues to struggle with flooding after Hurricane Ian

Reporter: Rachel Cox-Rosen Writer: Matthew Seaver
Published: Updated:

With cleanup and recovery from Hurricane Ian in full force, The City of Naples is dealing with more flooding.

The city’s stormwater system is having trouble keeping up with rainwater, so now there are talks to fix the issue, but could be a long process.

There’s a lot of work to be done. After Ian’s storm surge, the city worked to clear sand and debris from the stormwater system and drains, but then the rains started again, making everything worse.

Hurricane Ian’s storm surge in Naples was historic, flooding first-floor apartments, covering half of Tin City, and leaving 5th Avenue’s iconic shops underwater.

Pausie Whittaker saw the surge firsthand in her River Park home. At least a couple of feet of water came inside. “I lost everything, everything.”

Everything she owns is now scattered next to her house. She has nowhere to go, so she’s sleeping in her car.

Whittaker said she’s a cancer survivor, so she’s used to fighting tough battles.

“I’m still alive. That’s all that counts. All these things can replace,” said Whittaker. “I want to go out and look for someplace to live, but oh my God, I can’t pay for it. So expensive I tried a hotel, I tried some storage, nothing.”

There’s suffering like this all around River Park and across the City of Naples.

What’s making it worse is the flooding just won’t stop.

Gulfshore Boulevard flooding on Oct. 15.

Water covered Gulfshore Boulevard on Saturday.

“It’s having a detrimental effect in our community. How long do we believe we’re going to need to suffer through this process?” asked Terry Hutchinson, with the Naples City Council.

Hutchinson asked Streets and Stormwater Interim Director Bob Middleton that question.

“Saturday was about three inches of rain in about an hour and a half. Our healthy stormwater system couldn’t have handled that. There would have still been flooding. But when you throw in the debris that’s still on the side of the road, with a two-and-a-half or three-inch rain, it’s going to continue to make a mess,” said Middleton. “This is a marathon, it’s not going to happen overnight. And there’s places in our system that needs help.”

Even lighter rain like Naples saw Tuesday hurt the repair efforts

“There’s not enough pipes in the ground in some of our areas. And if one section of that system gets complicated or plugs up, the water will sheet flow down a road to the low line area, and you’ve got small drains, one by one drains in the side of the road, and they can’t handle that flow. You know, the pipes need to be bigger,” Middleton said.

All city leaders seemed to agree that Naples needs to be ready to make major investments in stormwater system improvements.

They’ll discuss a new pump station on 3rd Avenue North in a meeting on Wednesday.

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