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As Hurricane Irma Neared, Naples, Fla., Prepared For 'Unbelievable' Storm Surges


As we mentioned, Hurricane Irma is heading up Florida's west coast. And we have the mayor of Naples, Bill Barnett, on the line.

Thank you for being with us, mayor, at this time.

BILL BARNETT: Well, thank you for asking me to be on the show.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Florida Governor Rick Scott has warned that there might be, quote, "unbelievable storm surges" in your city. What are you expecting to happen along your shoreline?

BARNETT: Well, if this - the forecasts are what they are predicting, it could - it will not be a pleasant situation. We have a lot of low-lying streets, homes on the beach, neighborhoods, businesses that would certainly be affected. To what extent? Time will tell.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: How concerned are you, sir?

BARNETT: Very. This should be my No. 1 one concern. Obviously, safety is my first concern for everybody here. But that is definitely the No. 1 concern on my mind.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: I want to ask you about preparations for the hurricane. Obviously, this hurricane took a turn, and it was almost a surprise for the west coast of Florida. Are you ready?

BARNETT: Yes. You know, from the beginning and I think - I've said it before, I think that Hurricane Harvey was a tremendous wake-up call for us. At the very first warnings or early signs that this hurricane was - had a chance of No. 1, hitting Florida, and No. 2, the slightest chance that we could be affected because of how wide this storm was, we started our preparations.

So we're as prepared as anyone can be. That doesn't say much except for the safety aspect, and the people that have evacuated early and listened to everything that we said. The part that's going on now is as ugly as it gets. And then we're prepared for the aftermath when we can go out and assess what damages there have been and what the extent of them is.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Just briefly, sir, Florida is a huge tourism destination. You were speaking of the aftermath. How do you think this storm may affect one of Florida's biggest industries?

BARNETT: Well, you know, it's subjective at best because depending on the amount of damage that's done and what it's going to take to rebuild, if necessary, and get things back to making it a No. 1 tourist destination and keeping its beauty, that's all on - you know, it's just speculative because we don't know. And we can only hope that the worst does not happen.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: And just personally, sir, I mean, how is - how are you and the people that you know dealing with this storm? Are they in a safe place?

BARNETT: Yeah, they're in a safe place, myself included. I have quite a few first responders here - fire and police. There are families here. We have pets here, and mine included - an old English bulldog rescue and two rescue cats. And so it's kind of a close-knit family.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: OK, thank you.

BARNETT: And we're good.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Thank you, Bill Barnett, the mayor of Naples, Fla. We wish you the best.

BARNETT: Thank you, bye. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.