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Speed of the Ian surge-spawned flooding freaked out residents in Cocohatchee River area of Naples

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Kate Payne
/
WLRN
Brian East helps pile waterlogged belongings from a neighbor's home on the side of the road in his Naples neighborhood. He worries it could take months for officials to haul away all of the storm debris.

Piles of storm debris six feet high line the streets of some Naples neighborhoods, as residents race to tear out the flood damage before the mold sets in. 

Living on the edge of a canal that flows into the Cocohatchee River in Naples, Brian East knew that flooding was a possibility. He says that’s why when he built his house back in 2003, he built it a foot higher than the code required.

Still, he says he could not believe how quickly the floodwaters rose, swamping cars and rushing into houses. When Hurricane Ian blew in one week ago, East says his street became the river.

“You just can’t fathom the amount of water that was here,” he said. “The speed of it was unbelievable. That's what’s freaky. You just can't believe how fast that water comes up.”

East estimates the water came within about 9 inches of reaching his home, which sits on a patch of high ground. He says every other house on the block had flood damage. Streaks of muck two or three feet high mark the water line on some neighbors’ houses. 

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Kate Payne
/
WLRN
Piles of ruined furniture, drywall and insulation line both sides of the road on Shores Avenue in Naples. The neighborhood of a couple dozen houses lines a canal that flows into the Cocohatchee River, which inundated homes.






“You can just see everything’s dying. All the plants are dying because it’s salt water,” East said. “The muck is in everything. Any piece of furniture is garbage. It’s everywhere. It smells like dead fish and garbage.”

Piles of water-logged belongings line both sides of the street. Chunks of drywall and clumps of insulation are strewn together with ruined mattresses, teddy bears, Christmas decorations and strollers – all of it carrying the stink of the floodwaters, a toxic brew of sewage and chemicals.

“There was a house down here that had just been remodeled. That's trashed,” East said, pointing down the street. “The house next door to this, they've been in it, again, about six months. They bought it and gutted it. Beautiful. And it's ruined. There’s a dumpster there. That's the second one they’ve filled.”

East says his neighbors are still working through the immediate aftermath of the storm, assessing the damage and salvaging what little they can. Soon, the next wave of the crisis will hit: where is everyone going to live?

“There's already a problem with rentals here,” he said. “I don't know where they're gonna go because it's just gotten so expensive here.”

BrianEast_KPayne.jpg
Kate Payne
/
WLRN
When Hurricane Ian plowed into Brian East's neighborhood on the edge of the Cocohatchee River, he says his street became the river. East says the water came within inches of reaching his home, but says every other house on the block had flood damage.

Still, East says he and his neighbors are grateful to have survived.

“Pretty much the consensus on this street is yeah, this is terrible. But you know what, we're all alive,” he said. “You can replace everything except a life.”

Kate Payne is education writer for WLRN, Miami