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Even more than the fierce winds whipping tall palm trees and threatening to rip roofs from houses, the beach resort of Naples in southwestern Florida was bracing Sunday for what could be a deadly rise in sea levels.
Authorities say powerful Hurricane Irma could send waters surging 10 to 15 feet (three to 4.5 meters) above normal levels along the shoreline, putting low-lying Naples—one of the richest communities in the US—at grave risk.
Scene - Beach - Naples - Hours - Irma
The scene from a storm-battered beach in Naples just hours before Irma's full-force arrival was hardly comforting. The city's natural defenses seemed almost laughable: pitifully small sand dunes planted with scrawny vegetation.
Just beyond the dunes sit big, fashionable homes with impeccably trimmed yards, all of them theoretically empty now following a mandatory evacuation order.
Areas - Evacuation - Irma - Wrath
But areas where evacuation was merely recommended, and not required, are not far away—and they appeared particularly vulnerable to Irma's wrath.
The time for evacuation, in any case, was long past. Streets were strewn with palm fronds ripped from the trees. Interstate highway 75 was being swept by wind gusts powerful enough to knock a man off his feet, and visibility was extremely poor.
Signs - Life - Area - Hotels - Residences
There were no visible signs of life at the area's big hotels, or its seaside residences or villas. Businesses had boarded over their windows. Everything was closed. The only visible light came from the forlorn blinking of traffic lights on abandoned streets.
Evacuees still in the area were hunkered down in shelters, or in hotels farther away from the coast. Everyone fears that Irma's intense winds might drive high, pounding seas up onto land, where they could wreak destructive havoc with cars, houses—really everything.
People - Storm - Surge - Virginia - Defreeuw
"I am concerned about people that don't believe in the storm surge," said Virginia Defreeuw, 76, who...
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