A Resilient Community Designed to Weather Any Storm
Rooted in the passionate belief that smart growth and sustainability work hand in hand, Babcock Ranch was designed as a new kind of hometown. From solar energy to alternative transportation to parks, trails and open green spaces serving as vibrant gathering spots, Babcock Ranch is an innovative, welcoming place for everyone.
Since embracing its first residents in 2018, Babcock Ranch has been guided by core initiatives, including environment, health, education, energy, technology, transportation, and storm safety.
This combination has led to the community’s reputation as a model of security and resiliency, most recently facing the wrath of Hurricane Ian.
Anthony Grande moved away from Fort Myers three years ago in large part because of the hurricane risk. Having previously experienced Hurricanes Charley in 2004 and Irma in 2017, he sought out a change of place where climate resiliency was prioritized. What he found was Babcock Ranch — America’s first solar-powered town.
The community endured nearly Category 5 winds during Ian, never losing power.
“Despite freight train-like winds and flooding rains, the lights stayed on. We never lost internet. We never lost water,” Grande said. “We got very little damage, downed trees, a rip on the lanai screen and that’s it.”
Located 30 miles inland and built close to 30 feet above sea level, with all utilities secured underground and structures designed to withstand winds of 145 miles an hour, Babcock Ranch residents are at a distinct advantage for quick recovery after a storm.
As dawn broke the morning after Hurricane Ian, and media showed the devastation left in its wake, residents quickly stepped up to assist with recovery efforts and donate supplies and food to families who were at the emergency shelter located in Babcock High School’s Field House.
“After Ian hit, we all just felt so incredibly grateful that our community was the small percentage of Charlotte County that had power, so we wanted to get right to work,” said Babcock Ranch resident Yanet Barrero. “The day after the storm, we met with others who were bringing dinner to the shelter. While we were there, a bus pulled up transferring elderly people to our shelter from another location. I didn’t see cots, so I asked, ‘Where are these people going to sleep?’”
Barrero said she immediately posted a call for air mattresses on the community’s social media. The response was fast.
“We all felt so overwhelmed, like what we were doing wasn’t enough because it was such vast devastation,” Barrero said. “But when you look at the community as a whole, you realize it’s the small things that make a difference.”
Babcock Ranch residents offered help that extended beyond the town. Two children ran a lemonade stand that raised money to help a teacher whose home was damaged. Residents helped people whose homes flooded salvage clothing by laundering it. Others welcomed lineman and first responders into their home, offering them a hot meal and washing their clothes. The town is hosting several drop-off sites for item donations that will help those who live in neighboring flood-ravaged areas. Residents have volunteered in hard-hit areas; Ms. Barrero’s children helped distribute food from a restaurant in Iona, near Fort Myers Beach and Sanibel.
Hurricane Ian was truly a test of the community’s design, but more than anything, it showed the compassion of a town ready to help in need.