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Anthony Grande moved away from Fort Myers three years ago in large part because of the hurricane risk. He has lived in southwest Florida for nearly 19 years, had experienced Hurricanes Charley in 2004 and Irma in 2017 and saw what stronger storms could do to the coast.
Grande told CNN he wanted to find a new home where developers prioritized climate resiliency in a state that is increasingly vulnerable to record-breaking storm surge, catastrophic wind and historic rainfall.
What he found was Babcock Ranch — only 12 miles northeast of Fort Myers, yet seemingly light years away.
Babcock Ranch calls itself “America’s first solar-powered town.” Its nearby solar array — made up of 700,000 individual panels — generates more electricity than the 2,000-home neighborhood uses, in a state where most electricity is generated by burning natural gas, a planet-warming fossil fuel.
So when Hurricane Ian came barreling toward southwest Florida this week, it was a true test for the community. The storm obliterated the nearby Fort Myers and Naples areas with record-breaking surge and winds over 100 mph. It knocked out power to more than 2.6 million customers in the state, including 90% of Charlotte County.
But the lights stayed on in Babcock Ranch.
Climate resiliency was built into the fabric of Babcock Ranch with stronger storms in mind, and Hurricane Ian was a major test.
All the insurance spent rebuilding stuff in flood areas could be redirected to this instead of trying to deny what is happening and thinking it can be stopped resources should be dedicated to acclimating to the inevitable climate change. Client scientists and advocates will scoff in losing the money that would be put into infrastructure of the most vulnerable areas. This kind of evidence though is hard to dismiss.