Is this photo of Windows holding back floodwaters from Hurricane Ian real?

A photograph in an October 1, 2022 tweet authentically shows windows holding back floodwaters from Hurricane Ian.

The context

We found no reason to doubt the authenticity of the photo, but we’re waiting until we’ve been able to confirm details of its origin with the person who posted it before giving this fact-check a final score.

On October 1, 2022, a Twitter user job a photograph of three unbroken windows meant to withstand the weight of heavy flooding from Hurricane Ian. The photo showed flood waters several feet high with palm tree tops visible above the surface. The late September storm caused massive devastation across the state of Florida as well as numerous online rumours, such as alleged sightings of a shark and killer whale spotted in flooded streets.

Many replies on social media made jokes about the aquariums, praised the contractor or construction crew who built the building, and raised the possibility that the windows in the photo were hurricane windows.

The Twitter caption for the window and flood photo claimed it was captured in the city of Naples in the aftermath of Hurricane Ian. The account’s bio listed Dixie Whatley’s name as well as a website for Dixie Whatley Studios. It is unclear if Whatley took the photo or if a family member, friend or other acquaintance passed it on to him. We have contacted Whatley and will update our story soon. However, as things stand, we found little, if any, reason to doubt the authenticity of the photo.

Whatley also posted the photo on Instagram with the caption: “We weathered the storm in Naples, Florida. This is my favorite shot, looking through our dayroom window towards the pool. We are right on the beach and stayed in our top floor (14th) apartment during the storm. Had enough of a bird’s eye view.

We were able to connect the dots between Whatley’s publicly available mailing address with elements of her Instagram post, such as the “social room” and her mention of the fact that she lives in a multi-story building “right on the beach”. It all seemed to line up.

Some users replied that the same image had already appeared hours earlier on Reddit in the r/Damnthatsinteresting subreddit. It seemed to be true. However, that didn’t mean Whatley’s social media posts were fake, as the photo may have been posted elsewhere by her or someone she knew before posting the photo to her Twitter and Instagram accounts.

The Reddit post had a title that read, “Not the beautiful view of Florida everyone imagined! Courtesy of Hurricane Ian. Reddit user u/dragracedave, the person who posted the post, also said in a comment: “This is an absolute mess here! This is by far the worst storm I’ve ever experienced in this area, it’s going to be months before everything is finally settled :(.” We also reached out to u/dragracedave on Reddit.

The rating for this fact check will be updated when we are able to confirm its origin with the original poster. However, again, this image appears to be real.

We’d be remiss not to mention that the photo of the windows that were supposed to hold back floodwaters from Hurricane Ian was also later posted to the r/photoshopbattles subreddit. The subreddit challenges users to put their design skills to use in Adobe Photoshop. The top-voted edited photo of the flood added an alligator (or crocodile), as if the animal was about to jump through the windows. Second place showed a joke about the Southern US love for sweet tea.

Sources:

AirborneRanger122. “PsBattle: These windows are holding back water from Hurricane Ian.” r/Photoshopbattles via Reddit.comOctober 1, 2022, www.reddit.com/r/photoshopbattles/.

@Both sides. TwitterOctober 1, 2022, https://twitter.com/bothcoasts/.

dragracedave. “Not the beautiful view of Florida anyone imagined! Courtesy of Hurricane Ian. r/Damntthatsinteresting via Reddit.comSeptember 30, 2022, www.reddit.com/r/Damntthatsinteresting/.

Hageman, Samantha. “Everything You Need to Know About Hurricane Windows.” Pella.comAugust 15, 2021, https://www.pella.com/performance/impact-resistance/understanding-hurricane-windows/. TinEye Reverse Image Search. https://tineye.com/.

Jack C. Nugent