Tuesday, May 22, 2018
Tampa Bay Weather

Naples waits for Irma: 'Just think how many millions of people have been scared in the last week'

NAPLES — Don Wingard stood on the wooden ramp to Naples Beach and looked at the waves.

A little after noon, the surf was still tame.

But Hurricane Irma's path was growing more certain by the hour. Naples was in it, potentially the first major city in Florida's southwest coast to feel the effects. Wingard planned to ride it out in a hotel further inland than his house near the beach.

"Everybody thinks it's going to hit everywhere," he said. "Just think how many millions of people have been scared in the last week."

LIVE BLOG: Latest updates on Hurricane Irma.

The owner of three homes, Wingard said he has been through hurricanes before, but Irma is huge and projections say it could linger for a frightening amount of time. "I've never been through a hurricane for 24 hours," he said.

Wingard was alone at the beach in his concern, though. A handful of others visited, mostly walking to the edges of the Naples Pier to check out the Gulf of Mexico before the storm.

COMPLETE COVERAGE:Find all our coverage about Hurricane Irma here

Patricia Ammirati, who has lived in Naples for 11 months, walked across the sand, bare of footprints.

"Desolate," she said. "It's pretty weird." Her home is inland, on the other side of Interstate 75, she said, and should be safe from the storm.

Natalia Gambino swam in the small waves with her dog.

She lives just a few blocks from the coast, she said, and planned to ride it out with friends.

"We're going to party at the house," Gambino said.

The storm excites her. She said she's never been in a hurricane before and isn't afraid yet.

"I'm out here in a bathing suit in the water," Gambino said. "Look who else is out here?"

No one.

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