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Hurricane Ian Targeted Florida’s Retirement Belt

Older people, who are particularly vulnerable to hurricanes, make up a large share of the population in southwest and central Florida.

Osceola County Sheriffs use a fanboat to rescue a 93-year-old resident from flooding following Hurricane Ian on Sept. 30.

Osceola County Sheriffs use a fanboat to rescue a 93-year-old resident from flooding following Hurricane Ian on Sept. 30.

Photographer: Bryan R. Smith/AFP via Getty

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The promise of sandy beaches, mild winters and low living expenses has long attracted retirees to Florida’s southwest coast. But that high concentration of older people means more vulnerability for a region that’s increasingly at risk of natural disasters — a devastating trade-off that became all too clear when Hurricane Ian slammed into the Fort Myers metro region this week.

The Category 4 storm brought catastrophic winds, heavy rains and storm surges that flooded homes and roadways, and that left more than 2.5 million Floridians without electricity by Thursday morning — including 91% of households in Charlotte County. At least 21 people are confirmed dead in Florida as of Friday morning, though officials suggest numbers will continue to rise.