Anthony Grande had to relocate due to hurricane risks in 2017 and he told CNN that he wanted to find a new home where developers considered climate resiliency as there has been a massive increase in storm surge, catastrophic wind, and historic rainfall.
He was able to find Babcock Ranch — only 12 miles northeast of Fort Myers.
Babcock Ranch calls itself “America’s first solar-powered town.” Its nearby solar array comprises 700,000 individual panels that generate more electricity than the 2,000-home neighborhood uses.
The streets flood so the houses are saved from the turmoil. Power and internet lines are buried to avoid wind damage.
It was a difficult trial when Hurricane Ian headed toward southwest Florida this week. The storm destroyed the nearby Fort Myers and Naples areas with record-breaking surges 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 there were no power cuts in Babcock Ranch.
“It certainly exceeded our expectations of a major hurricane,” Grande, 58, told CNN.
“We have proof of the case now because [the hurricane] came right over us,” Nancy Chorpenning, a 68-year-old Babcock Ranch resident, told CNN. “We have water, electricity, internet — and we may be the only people in Southwest Florida who are that fortunate.”
“We’re very, very blessed and fortunate to not be experiencing what they’re experiencing now in Sanibel Island and Fort Myers Beach,” Grande said. “In the times that we’re living in right now with climate change, the beach is not the place to live or have a business.”
“It’s a great case study to show that it can be done right if you build in the right place and do it the right way,” said Lisa Hall, a spokesperson for Kitson, who also lives in Babcock Ranch.
“Throughout all this, there’s just so many people saying, ‘it worked, that this was the vision, this is the reason we moved here,'” Hall told CNN.
The city has become a haven for some of Ian’s hardest-hit victims. The state opened Babcock Neighborhood School as an official shelter.
“They’re going to be renting a place over here for a while, while they figure out what’s going to happen out there,” a victim said. “I joked that we may be the only people in southwest Florida whose property value just increased.”
“He was there during the storm; another said, ‘where else would I be?'” Hall said. “We built it to be resilient and as much as you plan and think you’ve done the right thing; you don’t know until you put it to the test.”
The residents say that their community can be used as an inspiration for urban development to combat the impending climate doom.
“It’s not what it was 20 or 25 years ago; the storms are getting bigger and bigger, and it’s no surprise, because the warnings have all been there,” Grande said. “I think Babcock Ranch’s future has gotten even brighter.”