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Hurricane Ian

A tale of two communities

Written by: Alexa Stone


On the morning of September 23, Tropical Depression Nine (TD 9) formed south of the Dominican Republic. Its wind speed was 35 mph. The next day, as TD 9 crossed the central Caribbean, those wind speeds bumped up to 39 mph and became Tropical Storm Ian. Rapid intensification, fueled by the energy in warm Caribbean waters, transformed Ian into a Category 2 hurricane with 105 mph winds.[1]

National Hurricane Center’s threshold for “rapid intensification” is wind speed gains of at least 35 miles per hour within 24 hours or less.

Once in the Gulf of Mexico, Hurricane Ian reached maximum sustained winds of 155 mph. That’s two mph less than a Category 5 storm. As it intensified, Hurricane Ian moved rapidly north, then curved eastward toward southwest Florida’s Lee Island Coast.[2]


At 3:05 p.m. on Wednesday, September 28th, Hurricane Ian crossed the islands offshore of Fort Myers. The storm surge that accompanied it drowned coastal communities in 12 feet of water.[3]

Ocean water flooded 60 miles of Florida’s southwestern coastline, spreading several miles inland along with 12-22 inches of intense rainfall.

Hurricane Ian wind damage

Florida insurance losses are expected to exceed $28 billion and possibly go as high as $47 billion.[5]

As trees fell to the storm and toppled utility poles, 90% of Charlotte County lost power. The initial outage affected over 107,000 homes and commercial customers. Nine days later, 20,300 of them remained without power. [4]


Twelve miles northeast of Fort Myers, the storm’s winds and rain struck the 100% solar community of Babcock Ranch. There, the storm lingered for almost ten hours of roaring winds and drenching rains. During that time, white caps rippled across Lake Babcock, Lake Timber, and other waterways.

Despite that fury, the hurricane caused minimal damage. A few trees were downed, and a few shingles dislodged. The lights stayed on. No homes flooded.

Fort Myers and Babcock Ranch, Florida, seen after Hurricane Ian.

With Hurricane Ian, Babcock Ranch proved itself to be resilient by design.

What made the difference?
  • Building codes — In Babcock Ranch, all structures must be rated to withstand 145 mph winds. All electric and phone lines are buried.
  • Community planning and placement — All development is at elevations of 25 feet or more above sea level. The area has natural waterways that provide drainage.
  • Renewable energy — Babcock Ranch is 100% solar-powered.  A 430-acre solar farm supplies 74.5 megawatts of electricity — more than required by the 5,000 residents.[6]

Hurricane Ian damaged none of the 345,360  panels of the Babcock Ranch solar array.

ecoPreserve is here to help organizations and communities achieve climate resilience. A free consultation call can be scheduled online! 


[3] — 60-minutes-2022-10-09
[4] — WBBH – Southwest Florida
[6] — Florida Power & Light