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Real estate development practices worsened impact of Hurricane Ian

Building Team

Real estate development practices worsened impact of Hurricane Ian

‘Dredge-and-fill’ created thousands of properties vulnerable to storm surge.


By Peter Fabris, Contributing Editor | October 12, 2022
Hurricane Ian Impact
Courtesy Pexels.

A century ago, the southwest Florida coast was mostly swamps and shoals, prone to frequent flooding and almost impossible to navigate by boat.

Since then, real estate developers manipulated coastal and riverine ecosystems through dredging and filling to create valuable, buildable land. The results of their efforts created coastal communities that were home to more than 2 million people when Hurricane Ian struck.

Many of the homes in the region sit just a few feet from the ocean, surrounded by canals that flow to the Gulf of Mexico. The devastating storm’s 150-mile-per-hour winds and massive storm surge smashed hundreds of buildings to pieces, flooded houses, and tossed around boats and mobile homes. Vast portions of cities including Fort Myers and Port Charlotte were destroyed in a few hours.

The extensive land tracts formed by tearing out mangroves and draining swamps damaged natural wetland marshes that would have protected properties further inland from the storm surge. Thus, the damaging impacts of Hurricane Ian were catastrophic for a vast swath of southwest Florida.

Only three hurricanes had made landfall in the region since 1960, and none of them caused catastrophic flooding. Ian broke that streak, and those who rebuild in destroyed areas will continue to be at high risk from storms.

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