Babcock Ranch: Solar-powered “hurricane-proof” town takes direct hit from Hurricane Ian, never loses electricity
60 Minutes Overtime, CBS News
While hard-hit Fort Myers, Florida, continues its recovery from Hurricane Ian, some hope can be found 12 miles to the northeast at the planned community of Babcock Ranch. That's where Syd Kitson and his partners built an environmentally friendly, fully sustainable town that they hoped would be hurricane proof. Kitson, an eco-conscious developer and former pro football player, rode out the hurricane at Babcock Ranch. Unbelievably, none of the 5,000 people there lost power during the storm.
"We were in the bullseye," Kitson told correspondent Bill Whitaker for this week's 60 Minutes. "And I remember sitting here. I had the weather on. And the weather person says, 'Well, this Category 4 hurricane is now heading for Babcock Ranch.'"
"And not only is it heading for Babcock Ranch, but it's going to be on the eastern side of the wall, which is the worst place to be," Kitson said.
"How long did the hurricane sit over you?" Whitaker asked.
"It was about eight to ten hours," Kitson said.
At the height of the storm, there were white caps on the lake in a video Kitson shot on his iPhone.
"So as soon as the sun came up the next morning, I jumped in my car and I started driving out. And the only damage were a few down trees and a few shingles off the roofs," Kitson said. "That's it. And so our recovery was maybe a day."
Babcock Ranch was designed to accommodate Florida's climate and ecosystems with indigenous plants and natural waterways for drainage; it was built 25 to 30 feet above sea level to help mitigate flooding from storm surges. There are sustainable water and sewage systems; all electric and phone lines are buried.
"We are the first solar-powered town in America," Kitson told 60 Minutes. "We have a solar field that's 150 megawatts."