With Ian, treat the climate like an “active shooter”


You’ll never guess which metropolitan area in the United States led the nation to the biggest increase in the average selling price of homes in last year to this year.

It was Tampa-St. St. Petersburg, pride of the Sunshine State. TSP supplanted longtime, even sunnier leader Phoenix, Arizona.

Miami-Dade moved up to second on the list, and the ever-upscale Las Vegas wasn’t far behind.

So let’s review: The nation’s hottest real estate market just dodged a hurricane bullet, as Ian closely followed the destructive path of 2004’s Hurricane Charley, straight down the throat of a small estuary at Punta Gorda and Port Charlotte, plowing through Fort Myers and across the state.

Miami, another hot real estate market, also missed the mark. The last time the region was hit was in 1992, with Category 5 Hurricane Andrew, which then sparked a crisis, as private insurers fled the Florida market after seeing the toll then Andrew’s unheard-of $40 billion in property damage.

Phoenix, the former real estate heat king, breaks its own thermal heat records; and Las Vegas, Phoenix’s main real estate rival, is also competing with the former for the disappearance of water from the Colorado River. The dwindling water supply from the mighty river could soon lead to a crisis in both cities, Southern California and much of America’s food production.

We are looking at an American mystery: we claim to live in our future Atlantis, or in our own arid and burning desert.

The strange phenomenon is also happening in not-so-hot markets: Take Fort Myers and Cape Coral, which suffered much more from Hurricane Ian. Their county of Lee is part of a relentless push towards life on the coast in peril. As of the 1950 census, Lee County had 23,211 citizens. Today it is home to 787,976 people, meaning there are 34 times more people at risk than there were in 1950.

The lucky ones of Florida

Tampa Bay is one of the hottest real estate markets in the country despite the weather risks.

Credit: jharris407/Pixabay

One last thing about the brave people of Tampa Bay: They didn’t just dodge a bullet when Hurricane Ian fooled forecasters and made landfall to the south, they dodged another one hurricane ball. The area is on a lucky streak of 101 years, with the last direct hit occurring in 1921. The bay is a large south-facing estuary. A hit in the bullseye from a major hurricane would guarantee massive wind and surge damage.

As of the 1920 census, Pinellas and Hillsborough counties of Tampa had a combined population of 88,257. Today they number 2,434,809 – that means a century later there are more than 27 times as many people, and a corresponding number of schools, hospitals, Burger Kings and more Again. All on the same amount of land, with the same amount of shoreline, at the same precious few feet above sea level.

That’s where sea level is right now, anyway. Within decades, we are told that sea level rise

have Duval Street in Key West permanently underwater. Collins Avenue in Miami Beach and Biscayne Blvd. : faded away. Parts of MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, better suited for a shipyard. The ground surrounding the historic Cape Canaveral boat launches, a tidal flat. The Mar-a-Lago check-in counter will be a paddling pool.

Passive accomplices

Yet the ambitious Florida governor can’t bring himself to mention climate change. Nor can he pack Hurricane Ian on a chartered jet and ship it to an affluent northeast resort. The two US senators from Florida, Marco Rubio and Rick Scott, can’t talk about it either.

Scott preceded Ron DeSantis as governor. He reportedly blocked all state employees from mentioning climate change (Scott denied this). I watched Scott do two in-depth one-on-one interviews on Wednesday. He did not mention the climate or sea level rise, nor did investigators call him about it.

I don’t buy the “too soon” response the NRA throws out after every mass shooting. Climate change will continue to be the ‘active shooter’ of every storm, heat wave and drought that afflicts us.

We have to treat it that way and talk about it. Now.

Peter Dykstra is our weekend editor and columnist and can be reached at [email protected] or @pdykstra.

Its views do not necessarily represent those of Environmental Health News, The Daily Climate or the publisher Environmental Health Sciences.

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