Brickell Avenue in Miami was flooded after Hurricane Irma on Sunday, Sept. 10, 2017. (Mike Stocker/Sun Sentinel/TNS)

Climate change has some Floridians fleeing

While Florida continues to be a rapid growth state, some people – mostly over 65 – are fleeing in the face of real and perceived climate change impacts. This is in spite of Florida being the No. 1 state as a retiree destination.

In a article, Jon Rork, economics professor at Reed College, reported annual migration out of the state for people 65 and older  has increased from 43,366 in 2012 to 52,630 in 2017. Rork tracks migration, and says the prevailing hypothesis is many of these people are moving north, but only so far as Georgia and North Carolina. Rork believes a good deal of this elderly migration is tied to the destructive threat of hurricanes and big insurance premium increases for both hurricane and flood insurance. Premiums are linked to location, structure age, exposure and building codes, among other variables.

“We will miss the warm winters,” Karen Colton, 54, who lives near Upper Tampa Bay, told There may be fewer sun-filled days at her new destination, yes, but Colton is still eager to retire to Asheville, N.C., with her wife, Rebecca Turner, this summer. Colton says she’s done fearing the “killer hurricane and floods” that wreak havoc on her current hometown, and craves peace of mind during her retirement years.

The couple has been fortunate to have escaped severe hurricane damage so far. But, Colton wonders, “What if I won’t be as lucky next time”? “I like that Asheville seems to be immune to most natural disasters,” she said.

There are cost and risk problems for many Floridians of all ages. Migrating to a perceived less risky environment may seem appealing to retirees living on fixed income. Target choices for moves, however, need to be researched not only for economics but for environmental risk assessment. On the face of it, Asheville probably faces fewer climate-driven threats than much of Florida, but there is no immunity. The mountainous terrain near Asheville can be subject to landslides in heavy rain events, as an example, and heavy rain events are not a rarity in that region.

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