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The Scene In Naples

LULU GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:

The city of Naples was not under mandatory evacuation leading up to Hurricane Irma. But when Hurricane Irma shifted to West Florida yesterday, the city found itself vulnerable. To update us now, the city's fire chief, Kingman Schuldt, joins us. Welcome to the program, sir.

KINGMAN SCHULDT: Thank you very much for having us.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Tell us - what is it looking like there this morning? I believe it started raining last night.

SCHULDT: Yeah, we've had pretty substantial rain off and on for about the past 12 to 18 hours. This morning, we're expecting the hurricane-force winds between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. and with a 15 to 20-foot storm surge. So we've - we're receiving some intermittent power outages right now. We've got sustained winds of about 40 miles an hour. So the EMS responses in the area have been halted for the most part. Fire responses - the heavier apparatus - are on a kind of need, case-by-case basis. So we're really in preparations mode. And we're just getting hunkered down.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Yeah, hunker down. I mean, how many people are still in the city? Have residents and evacuees been able to leave since yesterday? You had a lot of people going there because they were trying to get away from Miami.

SCHULDT: Yeah, there's - you know, it's one of the things that we've been looking at to try and get some really solid numbers. And we get more and more stories about people needing sheltering. Here in the county, we have nearly 300,000 people in the Greater Naples area. And we had a call just this morning of somebody looking for shelter. So shelters are a capacity here throughout the county. And a lot of people are still trying to make plans, believe it or not.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: And what advice are you giving them? Where can people go for safety?

SCHULDT: Well, what we do is we refer them to the county emergency operations center. And they route them to the shelters that they still have some spots at. And it's really not prudent for anybody to try any traveling in this. It's really time to shelter in place.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: You know, Naples is only, I think, about 3 feet above sea level. What does that mean for the storm surge height?

SCHULDT: A lot of prayers. We're expecting 15 to 20-foot storm surges. For example, I live down south in Marco Island, personally. And I'm only several feet above sea level. So we're expecting catastrophic storm surge and structural failures.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: What does that mean, in terms of recovery once the storm is over?

SCHULDT: Well, you know, it's going to be a challenge for us. We've already requested and rostered a lot of assets throughout the state and federal system. We've already requested a lot of shallow water boats through the Florida fire chief's emergency response system in the state. And we will do our best to get out there. We will reach all the people throughout Collier County. And - but we are expecting and anticipating we're going to get some pretty qualified help pretty quick.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: And, sir, just briefly - personally, how is your family, and where are they?

SCHULDT: Well, everybody - interesting. We have here - we've done some family sheltering for all of our loved ones that don't have somewhere to go. So we've got some folks here staying with us in our operations center. And we really just try and get them close and do the best we can. A lot of people have gone out of state. I'm sure you've seen that there's estimated some 3 million people that have evacuated Florida. So it's really a monumental task. But we're doing the best we can take care of our families.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Well, best of luck to you, Kingman Schuldt, the fire chief of Naples.

SCHULDT: Thank you very much. Be safe. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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