This was the first hurricane for our photo staff, not to mention the first week for our fall intern. We've tackled Florida's intense brush fire season, but planning for Hurricane Irma was an entirely different beast. During the week leading up to the storm, photographers captured some of the initial panic and preparation within the community – from the hoards of cars waiting for gas early in the week to the winding lines of residents waiting to get into shelters the day before the storm. 

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As Hurricane Irma made landfall in Southwest Florida on Sunday, photographers were stationed across Collier County. Dorothy Edwards embedded with the fire rescue team in Immokalee. Nicole Raucheisen waited to deploy to Bonita Springs, an area that had just experienced unprecedented flooding a few weeks before the hurricane. Katie Klann stayed with a fire crew farther south in the county and prepared to head to Everglades City as soon as the storm had passed. With such a large county, we found it imperative to have photographers spread out.

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The morning after Hurricane Irma was a time for quick decision making. Photographer Luke Franke and a reporter made their way to Marco Island, an area that was expected to have been hit directly by the hurricane. When he arrived, he found that Marco Island did not experience the surge from the storm in quite the same intensity as Goodland, Florida. Luke documented Goodland residents in shock as the island had sustained a lot of damage. Dorothy Edwards spent all of Monday visiting with mostly immigrant families who were coming home to their destroyed trailers for the first time since seeking shelter. At 6 a.m., Katie Klann and a reporter had to make the decision to hop into the back of an Everglades City resident's truck to drive into the flooded area. From there, they were able to hitch a boat ride to the island of Chokoloskee and make initial connections with the residents. 

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As the week went on, each photographer had a designated community for continued coverage. As the Imperial River overflowed in Bonita Springs, Nicole Raucheisen documented residents returning home by boat to collect what belongings were salvageable. Dorothy Edwards spent time with Immokalee residents who were running out of resources and cooking the last bit of food they had left on gas grills outside of their homes.  

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Residents slowly started to return to find homes in ruins. The surge brought a thick sludge that covered the floors and walls in trailers in Chokoloskee and Everglades City. 120 mile per hour winds ripped roofs from mobile homes in Immokalee, exposing bedrooms and belongings to the elements. 

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On Thursday, President Donald Trump visited Naples. Without a real place to start, residents began to clean up properties to the best of their abilities. The few with insurance used the limited cellphone service to call insurance companies or waited for appraisers to arrive. 

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U.S. Representative Mario Díaz-Balart visited Everglades City and Immokalee on Friday. The Federal Emergency Management Agency arrived to register residents for hurricane relief. 

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A few days into coverage from the ground, Nicole Raucheisen was able to document these communities from the sky. We understood trailers were destroyed and streets were flooded, but the view from above provided a better understanding of the widespread impact these communities faced. It wasn’t just a single trailer in Immokalee — it was an entire street. It wasn’t just a flooded street in Bonita Springs — it was an entire neighborhood. 

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Day-to-day life was still far from normal one week after Hurricane Irma, but residents of Everglades City and Chokoloskee returned to Sunday morning church services to reflect on the week's events. Volunteers and civilians from around the country made their way to areas like Immokalee to provide provisions to residents. 

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Collier county started to see other long-term affects of the storm. Cuts exposed to flood waters became infected. Residents living in makeshift shelters awaited temporary housing options from the Federal Emergency Management Agency. 

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The Naples Daily News continues to cover the affects of Hurricane Irma on the community. 

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