In a Florida town designed to withstand hurricanes, Ian passed without any noticeable damage.

In Florida, Babcock Ranch was designed to withstand the harshest storms and is powered by solar energy. The neighborhood sustained only minor damage from Hurricane Ian and neither water nor electricity was lost. NPR’s Carlos Osorio hide caption

switch to caption For NPR, Carlos Osorio

In Florida, Babcock Ranch was designed to withstand the harshest storms and is powered by solar energy. The neighborhood sustained only minor damage from Hurricane Ian and neither water nor electricity was lost.

BABCOCK RANCH, Florida: Carlos Osorio for NPR Mark Wilkerson, like many others in southwest Florida, appeared to be taking a risk with his life by staying behind when Hurricane Ian made landfall last week as a Category 4 hurricane.

However, Wilkerson and his wife Rhonda were not only rescued by luck; damage to their luxurious one-story home was also avoided. You could say that everything was planned out.

Wilkerson joined the first 100 homeowners of Babcock Ranch in 2018, a cutting-edge neighborhood north of Fort Myers whose homes are constructed to weather the worst of Mother Nature’s fury without losing electricity, water, or internet.

The town situated 30 miles inland to prevent storm surges on the coast. All power cables to homes are buried underground, out of the way of strong gusts. To prevent floods, the development is surrounded by enormous retaining ponds. In case of emergency, streets are built to soak up floodwaters and protect homes.

Mark Wilkerson and his golf buggy powered by solar energy. He was among the initial 100 residents of Babcock Ranch. NPR’s Carlos Osorio hide caption

switch to caption For NPR, Carlos Osorio

Mark Wilkerson and his golf buggy powered by solar energy. He was among the initial 100 residents of Babcock Ranch.

NPR’s Carlos Osorio According to Wilkerson, he and his wife relocated from Illinois. On the Gulf, north of Tampa, “We’d almost been ready to build,” he claims. I want to live somewhere where I don’t have to flee, as the recent hurricane served as a reminder.

THE MAJORITY OF RESIDENTS DECIDED TO SURVIVE THE STORM AT HOME Wilkerson and his wife remained where they were when the storm hit, as did the majority of the locals. Wilkerson claims that even though the community missed the peak of the hurricane’s intensity, 100 mph gusts were still felt there. The lights in his home briefly flickered, but “lo and behold, we never lost electricity,” he said.

In fact, not a single shingle was lost from his house. The basic plot of Babcock Ranch after Ian is as follows: You wouldn’t even realize a hurricane had been through, save from a traffic signal that is no longer present at the development’s main entrance, a few street signs that are laying on the ground, and some palm trees that have been knocked over.

Unfortunately, this is not the case for many of the nearby areas, where destroyed buildings and power outages are prevalent.

Babcock Ranch is powered by an 870-acre solar array with 650,000 individual panels during the day. NPR’s Carlos Osorio hide caption
switch to caption For NPR, Carlos Osorio

Babcock Ranch is powered by an 870-acre solar array with 650,000 individual panels during the day.

NPR’s Carlos Osorio reports that Wilkerson, who has been involved in the solar sector since the 1980s, was drawn to Babcock Ranch because of its creative use of solar power: Florida Power and Light operates 650,000 solar panels on 870 acres of the development’s land.

The village is completely and amply powered by the solar array. It is able to power 30,000 houses. But there are only about 5,000 people living in Babcock Ranch. The surplus feeds back into the grid and powers the nearby neighborhoods. A natural gas generator kicks in to bridge the shortfall at night and on overcast days.

A STRONG AND SUSTAINABLE COMMUNITY IS WHAT DEVELOPERS SEEK. Syd Kitson, a 64-year-old former professional football player who rose to fame in the 1980s with the Green Bay Packers, is the creator of Babcock Ranch. He later founded Kitson

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