Hurricane Irma: Naples residents wake to downed trees, trucks, debris, water

Naples Daily News Staff
Hurricane Irma knocked a truck trailer onto the sidewalk and downed  trees off Creekside Boulevard in North Naples.

Updated 1:55 a.m. to add Goodland.

This story will be updated as property damage information emerges about Naples. Separate stories about fuel availability, power outages and store re-openings are also online at

The dawn after Hurricane Irma rose over downed trees, lost shingles and standing water around Naples. 

More: Landfall on Marco devastates the island, rescues underway

More: Monday updates: More than 580,000 await power in Collier, Lee


A flap of metal roof clanged lazily in the wind as fallen trees and collapsed homes rested silently in Goodland.

A boat capsided while docked in Goodland seen Monday, Sept. 11, 2017.

An inch of mud covered many of the roads Monday, and some of the floors of homes and businesses, a sign of the high water mark of the floods brought in by Hurricane Irma.

The storm collapsed homes and tore off roofs in this small peninsula just off of Marco Island seemingly at random.

Terry Naftal stood near the complete ruins of what had been his friend’s double-wide trailer, looking at his own stilted home, not much bigger than a double-wide trailer itself, across the street.

Naftal’s home was barely touched.

The ever-popular Stan’s Idle Hour in Goodland and the Island Woman store suffered extensive flooding and wind damage Monday, Sept. 11, 2017.

“I can’t believe my place is still standing,” he said. “It’s been there 47 years.”

All it needed was water and electricity.

Others had windows punched out or roofs torn off. A royal palm tree was knocked over and split through the middle by a fence post. One boat rested upside down over a dock near the public boat launch. Walker’s Coon Key Marina collapsed and yachts piled on top of each other in the yard.

Trees covered at least one home completely, crushing the front end of a car. Another fallen tree blocked off just about every inch around Emilee Lake’s home, but left the home, itself, intact.

“Nothing destroyed here that can’t be put back together,” Lake said, adding that she had three chainsaws inside ready to cut the tree out of her yard.

A fell royal palm in Goodland was impaled by a fence post during Hurricane Irma seen Monday, Sept.11, 2017.

Lake, who stayed in Goodland during Hurricane Wilma in 2005, took shelter in a friend’s home in Golden Gate for Irma.

“I won’t ever stay here for a hurricane again,” she said.

Slowly a handful of home and business owners began to walk and drive around the quirky, welcoming and sometimes wild community of about 250 people.

Two men in a white truck circled around asking passersby if they were all right.

Kelly Kirk, of Kirk Fish Co., said their fleet of boats had been spared, but flooding had knocked out the refrigeration to the fish house. A shed had been destroyed. She and her parents, who all own the stone crab fishery together, were still trying to tally the damage.

“We talked to the fire marshal and he said it could be at least two weeks before we get power back,” Kirk said.

Flood water brought in a foot of mud that covered the grills and floors of Stan’s Idle Hour, the ever-popular restaurant and bar that marks the entrance of Goodland.

The storm also took out a few windows, knocked down the outdoor band stage and sent some picnic tables flying toward a canal.

But it left the roof, said Ryan Gober, son of the owner, who was taking stock of the damage.

Stan’s is closed now for season and had planned on reopening in October.

“We will open,” Gober said. “We’re going to be out here every day with chainsaws.”

Gober hopped on the back of a friend’s pickup truck that was heading near his house, which also didn’t fare well in the flooding. The sun beat down and Gober took another look at Stan’s.

“Another beautiful day in Goodland,” he shouted as the truck drove off.

North Naples

Structures in North Naples were mostly spared. A few homes and businesses had damage to roofs and air conditioning units, power lines were down and ran across Airport-Pulling Road between Immokalee and Vanderbilt Beach roads, and it appeared nobody had power. The concrete walls encircling a residential community along Pine Ridge had crumbled where trees had fallen.

A street sign for Immokalee Rd was ripped to the ground by Hurricane Irma where it intersects Airport Pulling Rd N, in North Naples on Monday, September 11, 2017.

At first light Monday morning, residents in Naples Park emerged to assess the damage. They were in good spirits.

Jenny Grubb stepped out from her brother's house near the corner of 8th Street and 105th Avenue in North Naples to find no damage to the concrete house, but branches and palm fronds littered the streets. A few roof shingles peppered neighbors' lawns.

Grubb, who lives a few blocks to the south on 99th Avenue, said the screen on her lanai was gone.

"It's OK," Grubb said. "Who cares about the house and the cars? More important is our life."

Cassidy Armstrong checked out the destruction caused by Hurricane Irma in Naples Park while walking her dogs on Monday, September 11, 2017.

A few blocks to the north in Naples Park, Cassidy Armstrong walked two of her dogs, Batman and Phoenix, stepping over fallen tree limbs in the roads.

"I'm a little shaken up," she said. Her one-story house near 107th Avenue and 8th Court West backs up to a lake. It flooded into her backyard — which she calls a "jungle gym" for her four dogs.

A Florida native, Armstrong, 31, said she expected Hurricane Irma to take a different route and miss Southwest Florida. So she stayed at her home with her dogs and two teenagers.

A car passes by on a road left flooded by Hurricane Irma in North Naples on Monday, September 11, 2017.

"This is the worst I've seen," she said, her dogs in tow. After the eye passed, one of Armstrong's dogs got spooked and it took off running down the street. In 40 mph winds, she chased after it.

Flood waters rose waist-deep in the streets. By the time morning broke, the waters in the streets had receded, but not yet in Armstrong's backyard. A neighbor to the south lost an entire lanai-patio structure. Fences encircling the lake and up and down the streets were knocked down. But the houses were safe.

"We got lucky," she said. "We got really, really lucky."

Streets connecting communities within Pelican Bay had large oak trees blocking drivers to and from homes. Crews brought in machinery to clear room for residents to get out and for emergency vehicles to access homes in case of emergency.

Sorrento Villas resident Marty Lawton's air conditioning units were blown off the roof by Hurricane Irma, smashing into a parked car's windshield, as seen in North Naples on Monday, September 11, 2017.

At Sorrento Villas near Goodlette-Frank and Pine Ridge Road, an entire shingle roof structure of an apartment complex had blown off and landed on a parked car, and with it two roof-mounted air conditioning units. The windshield of the car had shattered and the roof still lay on the crushed hood.

East of I-75 in the Urban Estates area of North Naples, streets up and down Oakes Boulevard were underwater. Flood waters nearly reached Rick Smith's home on Oakes Boulevard just south of Spanish Oaks Lane. He said the water started collecting around 8 p.m. Sunday. By 10 a.m. Monday, the water was slowly starting to inch toward the drains.

Rick Smith describes his experience during Hurricane Irma in North Naples on Monday, September 11, 2017.

Now, he said, the hard work begins.

"What a crazy thing," Smith said as he drove an ATV around his property. He planned to help his neighbor move brush from the driveway before working on his own lot. "It's just a lot of water to move. I think everywhere is filled up."

Streets were also flooded near Pine Ridge and U.S. 41 North. Granada Boulevard and its cross streets were still impassable early Monday afternoon after a nearby pond flooded over. A car sat stranded in the water near the side of the road, its lights blinking, with no driver in sight.

"I'm devastated. I have lost everything." said Lynne Mattes, whose home suffered sever water and wind damage caused by Hurricane Irma, in North Naples on Monday, September 11, 2017.

Lynne Mattes, 57, who works at a nearby Publix, teared up as she swept the inside of her duplex that she'd left behind during the storm. Though she'd taken steps to keep it from flooding, it filled up as high as her windows, forcing her son, who stayed behind, to kick out a boarded window and flee with her dog to a neighbor's house during the calm in the eye of the storm.

"He was keeping the water out as much as he could," she said. "Then it started coming in through the other duplex."

The water also brought in cockroaches from the other side, making matters worse, she said.

Mattes said she wasn't sure how much of her belongings she would be able to salvage, though she tried elevating what she could ahead of the storm. Her son, Garland Williams, 32, hailed down a fire truck after discovering a busted pipe in the backyard, but they didn't have the resources to help. 

— Reporting: Shelby Reynolds, Laura Layden

Naples/ East Naples

Parking lot of the Park Shore Plaza in Naples.

Cambier Park in downtown Naples, long the city's prized greenspace, is now a graveyard of felled trees, mangled limbs and strewn branches.

Irma's battering winds toppled Camber's thick-rooted canopies. The storm snapped high-reaching limbs in half. The park is covered in a fresh bedding of ripped branches and leaves.

Naples crews were working already Monday to clear the debris.

At Anthony Park, Irma ripped the metal roofs off three picnic shelters. Parts of the roofs ended up at the city's nearby water treatment plant. At the park's entrance, the storm upended the enormous banyan tree by the playground. Another tree toppled over the fence to the nearby Gordon River Apartments.

Debris from the storm littered the low-income River Park neighborhood, but the 50-year-old houses mostly withstood Irma. The storm partially tore the roof on one house on 13th Street North and another on 5th Avenue North.

Downtown, The Dock restaurant on Naples Bay appeared all but lost. Irma ripped large parts from the roof and flung them across the area's traffic circle. In the restaurant's dining area, facing the bay, the storm tore wooden beams from the ceiling and left them dangling.

Nearby, Irma flattened the bayside tiki shack at the Cove Inn.

Much of downtown Naples was impassible Monday. Thick fallen trees blocked the way on side streets from 10th Street South to Gulfshore Boulevard.

Third Street South was mostly unscathed. But Irma tipped over a large canopy tree that was left leaning on the roof of Tommy Bahama's restaurant Monday afternoon.

Irma downed street poles and bent trees in the main courtyard at Bayfront, the residential and commercial complex on Naples Bay. The area was littered with pieces of orange tile that the had flung from Bayfront's roof and shattered to the ground. Walking through Bayfront sounded like walking on broken glass. 

— Joey Cranney reporting

East Naples

The morning after Hurricane Irma crushed Naples Estates, evacuees returned to the East Naples trailer park Monday to find endless piles of crumpled car ports, shin deep water and homes with no walls.

At the end of Elmwood Lane, exposed rooms had closets with clothes still hanging in them. An overturned box of photo albums here. A spilled drawer of prescription medication over there. Birds chirped. A generator growled.

Residents milled about in a semi-daze, stopping to ask how each other fared, and moving debris out of the street so cars could pass.

April McCausland, 68, carried an outside light lampshade she found in a pool of water down the street from her trailer in the 55-and-over park.

April McCausland looks over the damage to her home at Naples Estates trailer park in East Naples Monday, Sept. 11, 2017, after Hurricane Irma passed through Southwest Florida.

"Today, I feel like I'm 96," McCausland said.

She said she felt lucky that she only had roof damage, but feared for elderly neighbors, many of them uninsured, who lost much more and would have a hard time recovering form Irma's beating.

"All I can say is, 'Let's all help,'" McCausland said. "Start with the person who needs it the most and work our way back."

Neighbors rushed to help 87-year-old Larry Donnerstag as he waded in shin-high boots down the middle of the street toward the trailer where he has lived for 42 years, and through many storms.

"This is the most horrific thing I've ever seen in this park," Donnerstag said as he rested on the concrete steps under his miraculously intact car port.

Donnerstag, who spent Sunday night in a shelter at Lely High School, carried two small bags he had taken with him. He parked his car near the entrance to the park to avoid the flood waters. Without power and only spoiled food, he said he was considering going back to the shelter. 

"When I pulled in and saw all that aluminum I said, 'Oh, Lord. Oh, no,'" Donnerstag said.

Charles Pulkownik, who can't afford a phone or a TV, didn't know Irma was on its way. When a sheriff's deputy told him the storm would skirt Naples, Pulkownik, 56, decided to stay put at his trailer on Foxwood Lane with his Labradoodle, Cesar.

Resident Charles Pulkownik, 56, rides in Naples Estates trailer park in East Naples Monday, Sept. 11, 2017, after Hurricane Irma passed through Southwest Florida.

First, the power went out. Then, his neighborhood started ripping apart. As the eye passed over, he thought it was over. Then, he heard a big bang and ran to the front of his house and saw a coconut palm tree snapped off at the ground and lying across his driveway, blocking his escape route.

"We were good until it came back around (after the eye passed)," Pulkownik said. "I said, 'We're in a little bit of trouble here.'"

He watched a 40-foot piece of metal fly down his street. Then, his carport started to tear. In 15 minutes, it was gone. He said his carport waved in the wind like someone was shaking sand out of a beach blanket.

He had been living in Naples Estates for the past two years, moving from Michigan to live happily ever after in paradise.

"I guess not!" he said, riding off through the floodwaters on his bicycle.

Elsewhere, large trees were down and turned the median on Goodlette-Frank Road into an obstacle course. Lakewood Boulevard at Boca Ciega Drive was water-covered and power lines were down on that street. Entry to some subdivisions, including Kings Lake, were water covered and require a high vehicle for entry; trees were down in front of the entrances to the Naples Bath & Tennis Club and Hawk's Ridge subdivision off Airport-Pulling Road

— Eric Staats reporting

The Greater Naples Fire District Station 72 is standing by for orders and believe they will be tasked with clearing roads again today. They are expecting to get a call anytime

They were planning to get on the road at 8 a.m. but they have not received orders yet.

Right now, the medical unit only is being dispatched to 911 calls. The station has not received any fire department related 911 calls in their area.

— Alexandra Glorioso reporting


Mario Valentin saw through the window of his neighbors’ home how part of his trailer’s roof was blown away by the winds of Hurricane Irma. His family and his brother’s family had taken refuge during the storm in a concrete home next to the trailer they rent.

As the wind peaked up between 5:30 to 6 p.m. Sunday, both families heard a noise and looked through the window. A tree was falling and then, their roof was flying. Part of a bedroom’s wall was also gone. Debris lied on top of the soaked beds, where Mario Valentin, his wife and their 5-year-old daughter used to sleep.

Both brothers work as farmworkers for $300 to $360 a week at this time of season. They don’t have much savings to stay at a hotel, and they fear it will be difficult to find another place to rent after with all the trailers damaged by the storm. 

“We don’t have anywhere to go,” said Mario Valentin.  “One can go wherever, but not with the kids.”

Monday morning, Immokalee was a town where some road sections looked like rivers, power lines had fallen on the streets and near houses, and many homes and businesses were flooded. Dozens of trailers had walls or roofs ripped off.

Some people were trying to figure out where they would be able to move to in a community where almost half of the population lives below the poverty line.

Valentin’s brother, Jose Valentin, says they will do what their landlord says. The rooms where he, his wife and his 6-year-old daughter sleep still has a roof. They spent Sunday night there. He would like to stay, but doesn’t know if their landlord will let them.

“We are alive, right? That’s the good thing,” Mario Valentin said.

Over at another trailer park, Eloy Banda Rojas still has a place to call home.

A little after 9 a.m. Monday, Rojas stood in the middle of a flooded road leading to his home in Thomas Mobile Home Park. Except for a tree that fell on the roof and a wooden shutter peeled off a window by wind, his family’s trailer is still standing with a roof overhead.

“We were lucky,” Rojas, 32, said in Spanish.

His neighbor’s home across the street was severely damaged. A wall had opened up to the bedroom exposing a four-post bed and other furniture. Rojas said the family that lives there evacuated before the storm.

Rojas and his family decided to stay put and seek shelter at Eden Park Elementary School Friday knowing that there was a strong possibility their home may not make it through the storm.

“We got there Friday after two other shelters (Immokalee high and middle school) were full,” he said.

Rojas had visited the house last night when the shelter alerted residents it was safe to return to their homes and saw about two feet of flooding. The water has receded since then.

For now, he said his family plans to get rid of the tree and “We’ll see what we’ll do.”

— Ashley Collins and Maria Perez reporting

Bayshore area

Win Turner, of the Bayshore area of East Naples, points to damage in his long-nutured botanical garden.

The low-lying Bayshore area in East Naples emerged relatively unscathed with minimal roof damage. Residents navigated around downed trees.

Winn Turner, 87, an icon in Naples, came out of the two-story Liberty Lane home  he built himself to survey the damage to his 1-acre-plus private botanical garden. Turner also created that garden and has been perfecting it since 1968. 

He is tough as nails but this hurricane, among the many he's weathered, hurts badly, he said. His garden is his baby.

"You can't fight hurricanes," he said. "They've got fists bigger than me."

It will take weeks to get his property cleared and many months and years to get his gardens back.

"It gives me nightmares."

— Liz Freeman reporting