How one Florida community survived Hurricane Ian’s damage

Hurricane Ian

(NewsNation) — As the Federal Emergency Management Agency, rescue crews and survivors of Hurricane Ian piece through the the decimated regions of the west Florida coastline, one Florida community — Babcock Ranch — was relatively untouched.

The town, which is just north of Fort Myers, did receive torrential rainfall and roaring winds up to 135 miles per hour, but the most damage found in the aftermath of the storm was debris.

Babcock Ranch is the first solar-powered town in the U.S., where almost everything runs on solar panels. Though it’s only 20 miles north of devastated Fort Myers — it never lost power or water, even through a category 4 hurricane.

One couple who lives there tells NewsNation their neighborhood is resilient by design.

“I can attest to the fact that we looked outside, we saw the winds blowing. It was over 100 mph winds out here. and yeah, there was barely an affect,” resident Keith McFarlane told NewsNation’s “Rush Hour” on Thursday.

Unlike neighboring communities, Babcock Ranch’s power, gas and cable lines were built underground — protected from the damaging winds of a hurricane or tropical storm.

“It was very loud and ground shaking, but we were fine. We never lost power, we never lost internet, we never lost water,” McFarlane’s wife added.

Christiana Roy moved to Babcock Ranch from Cape Coral — a city where, as of Thursday, more than 68,000 customers still didn’t have power.

This newly built community uses solar energy centers, each with more than 650,000 solar panels, which were also able to withstand the strength of Hurricane Ian.

“We know people ourselves — friends of ours … they’ve lost everything — so I can’t tell you how fortunate we feel about being in a place that wasn’t touched by this thing. It’s hard to compare,” McFarlane said.

It’s possible Babcock Ranch could serve as a model for other communities that now need to rebuild after Hurricane Ian. But of course, burying power lines will inevitably be much more expensive than traditional poles and lines.

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