The town that overcame Ian

By Carlos Roa

Ian, the massive and devastating Category 4 hurricane, has been the deadliest to strike the state of Florida since the Labor Day hurricane of 1935. The recorded death toll stands at more than 120 people.

It caused widespread damage in the southeastern United States, especially in Florida and South Carolina.

Total losses for insurance companies could reach between $53 billion and $74 billion, according to an estimate by the risk research firm RMS. It is also estimated that the National Flood Insurance Program could suffer additional losses of $10 billion from storm surge and inland flooding caused by the storm.

The costs of legal action could add $10 billion to $20 billion to insurers’ losses from Hurricane Ian, according to the Insurance Information Institute.

Now the cleanup and recovery process has begun. Part of it includes search and rescue missions in areas accessible only by boat and plane, especially around Fort Myers.

Thousands of people have been trapped among flooded homes and shattered buildings. Efforts continue in what is expected to be a lengthy process.

Charlotte County was without power, but one of its communities never lost electricity or internet.

Babcock Ranch calls itself “America’s first solar-powered town.” It is also known as “The Town of Tomorrow,” with a proud motto: “The future is bright.” It houses 700,000 panels and generates more electricity than the 2,000-home neighborhood needs.

Climate change resistance is at the very core of the community. The passage of hurricane Ian was a real test for the city, since it knocked out power to more than 2.6 million customers in the state, including 90% of Charlotte County.

Their streets were designed to keep the homes from flooding. Landscaping was created with native plants to help control stormwater. Power and internet lines are buried to prevent wind damage. In addition, all of the above has been built in accordance with Florida’s strict building codes.

At a time when rebuilding is a necessary task, Florida should look to Babcock Ranch. Their successful experience in dealing with this powerful hurricane is a benchmark for what these communities should do in the immediate future.

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