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Fakes exist, but the original photo showing windows holding back a wall of water during Hurricane Ian is real

VERIFY 10/5/2022 Kelly Jones
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Since Hurricane Ian bore down on Florida and the Carolinas, VERIFY has been fact-checking viral images and videos that claim to show scenes from the storm’s path.

Many of them have been false.

One photo that went viral that shows several feet of water being held back by windows had people on Twitter raising eyebrows, speculating if it was real or not.

“We live on the beach in Naples, Florida. We stayed through the Hurricane Ian.  Thought I'd share a rather notable photo from the experience,” Dixie Whatley wrote on Twitter.

THE QUESTION

Is the photo of windows holding back Hurricane Ian flood water in Naples, Florida, real?

THE SOURCES

THE ANSWER

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Yes, the photo of windows holding back Hurricane Ian flood water in Naples, Florida, is real.

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WHAT WE FOUND

Dixie Whatley, a former reporter who lives in the Naples, Florida, building where the photo was taken, told VERIFY her neighbor, Tom Lisa, took the photo from a common area in the building. The photo shows the flood water up against windows that overlook a pool deck. 

VERIFY independently confirmed the location where the photo was taken, and confirmed Whatley and Lisa live in the same building.

Whatley posted the original photo to her Facebook account on Sept. 30 and then to Twitter on Oct. 1. Using RevEye, a reverse image search tool that launches four different search engines, VERIFY could not find any other instance where the photo appeared on the internet before Sept. 30. For example, here are results from TinEye.

On Oct. 5, she posted the original photo again with a photo of the water after it completely receded, writing: “I posted the original photo of the water four feet deep outside our party room. Here is the same window after the storm.”

Whatley told VERIFY she has been shocked to see how viral the original photo has gotten, considering she doesn’t use social media much anymore, and she didn’t expect all the comments and shares. She also didn’t expect how many people would think it wasn’t authentic.

The photo was posted on Reddit’s photoshopbattles group, where users posted edited versions of the photo that included wild additions, like an alligator and a shark

More from VERIFY: No, a video doesn’t show Florida students walking through a flooded school hallway after Hurricane Ian

“I’ve spent a lot of time defending it,” she said. “I am glad we can reassure [people] it’s not fake and make sure your windows are sealed!”

After seeing an outpouring of comments and retweets of people claiming the windows are sealed so well that the installers and sealers should get credit, Whatley said she has been trying to find the manufacturers. 

The building she lives in was built in 1972, and in a tweet, she said, “Trying to find out the brand of the windows. Turns out they've been there over 15 years! Apparently they leaked at first, had to be refitted, and no problem ever since. As some of the pros who commented have said, the installation is as important as the windows.”

According to the National Weather Service, Hurricane Ian brought moderate flooding to the Naples region. There are also videos posted to Twitter that show several feet of water flooding some parts of the city

More from VERIFY: Yes, only four Category 5 hurricanes have ever made landfall in mainland U.S.

Whatley said she and her husband, who helps oversee the maintenance at the building, didn’t evacuate when Hurricane Ian hit Florida’s coast because they knew how safe and sturdy their building is, and wanted to be of use to other residents.

“We were standing in the hallways, and I could look out and watch the cars floating by,” she said. “But we are both fit and knew we could stay and help people.”

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